Bleachers’ frontman and record producer Jack Antonoff is well acquainted with what makes a good album tick. Working with the likes of St. Vincent, Taylor Swift and Lorde, Antonoff seems to specialize in crafting catchy-yet-meaningful pop hooks and retrospective lyricism, a calling card he’s left on a number of hit releases, including many of his own.
While considerable buzz for his other notable projects may threaten to overshadow his solo endeavors, Take the Sadness Out of Saturday Night, Bleachers’ third album, proves itself yet another one of Antonoff’s works that shouldn’t be glossed over. Released July 30, the album melds the feeling of ‘80s lovelorn pining with the pressing need to break free from the chains of past relationships — both platonic and romantic.
Antonoff follows the age-old path of turning his pain into good music as well as turning over a new leaf. With every song on Take the Sadness Out of Saturday Night, he strives to leave the past behind and start a new chapter in his life. This is mostly made evident through his reminiscing lyrics, projected frustration and melodic synth breakdowns that happen to strike a tender chord within listeners.
“91” is a painting of Antonoff’s childhood trauma co-written by poet Zadie Smith, chronicling the anxieties and confusion he felt growing up: having no control over his life and who he was on the path to becoming. “Hey, I’m here, but I’m not/ Just like you, I can’t leave,” sings Antonoff in a reference to his mother and late sister, driving home his attachment to the past that lingers throughout the album. Featuring an excellent string arrangement to accompany his lyrics, the track is a touching start to the record.
“Chinatown” is the next stop on the artist’s soul-searching journey, grappling with his roots in New Jersey, shifting gears toward leaving home, finding love and the identity crisis that follows. Featuring vocals from legendary fellow Garden State native Bruce Springsteen, “Chinatown” is steeped in nostalgia. The gentle guitar and synths swaddle Antonoff’s deep, quiet voice and offer a respite to the message of the song.
Take the Sadness Out of Saturday Night is an amalgamation of sounds and emotions from all over the musical indieverse — it’s a sampling platter, the ultimate indie tasting palette. While some songs follow the pattern of late 2000s experimental indie, others boast elements of modern synthwave, rooting the album in the tried and true formula of songs about simple yearning.
The tongue-in-cheek “Stop Making This Hurt” and “Don’t Go Dark” pay direct homage to the ‘80s, drenched with synths, chorus harmonies belted out by multiple voices and the energy of a power ballad. Despite the sad titles, the instrumentals are energetic, intending to convey the mantras Antonoff tells himself to come to terms with his suffering.
In an impressive feat, “Secret Life,” featuring Lana Del Rey, packs the biggest emotional punch on the album, all the way down to the wistful plucks of the guitar. Antonoff’s voice tends to command, but Lana’s barely-there voice fits the song’s theme of covert love. While the lyrics aren’t as poignant or intense as they could be, the overall atmosphere the song crafts mostly makes up for it.
If anything, the album is likely to actually add some sadness to your night, but in a good way. It wrenches out harbored feelings pointedly with Antonoff’s simple yet universal lyricism. Adopting a stripped-down musical style, Antonoff straddles the line between leaning on the standard indie pop cornerstone and adding minor instrumental and storytelling flairs to set his album apart from the plethora of other records pumped full of nostalgia. At only 34 minutes, it’s a brief whirlwind of emotion.
With any luck, Take the Sadness Out of Saturday Night may even help you make good on moving on from the past. If not, it’ll at least provide for a fascinating personal look into Antonoff’s clearly talented mind.