Indie-pop act Bleachers released its highly anticipated third studio album “Take the Sadness Out of Saturday Night” on July 30. Following “Strange Desire” in 2014 and “Gone Now” in 2017, this latest album packs a punch as Bleachers pay homage to lead singer Jack Antonoff’s literal, metaphorical and musical roots.
Bleachers is the official stage name for musician and producer Jack Antonoff, the mastermind behind some of the most critically and commercially successful albums in the past year, including Taylor Swift’s “folklore” and Lorde’s “Solar Power.” Antonoff’s experimental style has led him to work with a variety of genre-crossing artists like Phoebe Bridgers, Clairo, St. Vincent, Sara Bareilles and The Chicks.
The New Jersey native, born and raised in Bergen County, imbues this new body of work with a nostalgic landscape and personal influences. In an interview with Rolling Stone, Antonoff described the album as coming out of a place of yearning, ambition and imagination.
“There’s a lot of desperation in these songs, and I realized, 'Oh, that’s the same feeling of being from New Jersey, that desperation of wanting out, of I want to break through into another part of my life,'" said Antonoff.
He began writing and recording the album during a three-day mini-tour in late 2019 that was comically called “I Love Making This Album but I’m Also Losing My Mind in Here & Need to Come Out and Play.” Against the backdrop of the pandemic and the end of his almost five-year-long relationship with actress Lena Dunham, the desires and dreams the album explores are amplified.
The album begins with “91,” a poetic number co-written with novelist Zadie Smith and recognizable by the violins stringing the song together. Antonoff ponders here on different stages of his life, the relationships and emotions that informed them and the interconnectedness of it all.
The closing line, “We’ve been gone just a little too long now,” is a reference to the title of Bleachers’ second album and ties well with the artist’s emphasis on memories as a theme.
Next comes the dreamy lead single, “Chinatown” featuring Bruce Springsteen. This song is sparkling with character and centers around coming home to New Jersey, after time away in the bustle of New York City.
Apart from the obvious iconic feature of one of Antonoff’s heroes, “Chinatown” was also marketed to play into the nostalgia behind this album. In fact, Antonoff played an acoustic version of the song live from the Holland Tunnel, with his stool planted in the New Jersey bound direction, and even wore a shirt saying “Welcome to New Jersey. Now go home.” in the official music video.
“How Dare You Want More” is an upbeat number that is amazing when played live, especially when saxophonists Zem Audu and Evan Smith get together in the glorious instrumental bridge of this song. Meanwhile, “Big Life” keeps the pace of the song preceding it and joyously repeats the want for a fuller life.
Meanwhile its sister song, “Secret Life,” featuring Lana Del Rey, exists in sharp contrast. Longtime collaborators Antonoff and Del Rey sing: “I just want a secret life/where you and I can get bored out of our minds.” This more stripped-down duet is vulnerable and optimistic about what one’s next steps in life are.
A sibling song to “How Dare You Want More,” “Stop Making This Hurt” expresses the frustration one has of going through life and breaking free. Antonoff utilizes references to his best friend, his father, his mother and his sister to take listeners through the journey of the song.
“Don’t Go Dark,” my personal favorite off the album, features backing vocals from Del Rey and The Chicks and was co-written by Del Rey and Antonoff. The song perfectly documents the end of a relationship and the mixed feelings of rage and resolution that come with it.
Its thematic pair, “45,” screams at the sky in a similar fashion. The track was released alongside “Chinatown” in 2020 and its title refers to a type of vinyl record of the same name. The song unpacks Antonoff’s journey moving away from New Jersey to New York City to pursue a career in music, keeping one foot planted in the past and the other in the future.
The penultimate song “Strange Behavior” quietens the album and is a minimal, more sentimental version of the more thrilling original song, which he wrote early in his career with the band Steel Train.
“What’d I Do With All This Faith?” closes out the album and explores the same subjects “91” does, using a different side and perspective. Antonoff introspects on where, what or who to place his faith and leaves listeners uncertain and wondering about his next direction.
Overall, the mature and varied pop-rock-indie-alternative sound of this album, combined with raw lyricism, intelligent songwriting and production and strategic aesthetic decisions, make it one of my most listened to albums of 2021. This 33 minute-listen is perfect for a quick walk around New York and New Jersey where you can really appreciate the landscape and the wondrous music it inspires.
My only criticism of this album is half-compliment: Bleachers is only making one stop on the tour for its New Jersey-inspired album in Asbury Park on September 11 at their Shadow of the City festival.
Bleachers will be going on tour this fall, where fans can experience "Take the Sadness Out of Saturday Night" live with its fantastic instrumentals, Antonoff’s brilliant stage presence and the band’s collective energy. The album is available on all major streaming platforms and further analysis of the album and additional live performances can be found on Bleachers’ YouTube channel.