DANIEL SILBERT
Jonathan Bernstein
June 01, 2017 AT 09:00 AM EDT

We gave it an A-

When Jack Antonoff first debuted Bleachers in 2014, the band seemed like a quaint side project for the fun. guitarist. But in the ensuing years, he’s become one of music’s most in-demand producers, minting pop gold for the likes of Taylor Swift and Lorde. Now, three years later, he’s returning to Bleachers once again — and the result, Gone Now, is his most accomplished to date.

On the proper follow-up to Strange Desire, Antonoff is more sonically self-assured and conceptually mission-driven, weaving together a 12-song cycle — inspired by the heartbreaking death of his sister, Sarah, from brain cancer when he was 18 — that explores the relationship between loss, youth, and rebirth. While Carly Rae Jepsen and Lorde add star-power to the radio-friendly pop explosions of “Hate That You Know Me” and “Don’t Take The Money,” Gone Now, as a whole, is a decidedly more contemplative offering. On an album that uses the jazzy gospel-pop blend of Chance the Rapper’s Coloring Book as a touchstone, much of the set is defined by its recurring refrain (first introduced in “Goodmorning”) of bittersweet farewells and warm gratitude.

Songs like “Everybody Lost Somebody” and “I Miss Those Days” betray the intensely personal backbone of Antonoff’s latest, a record rooted in deep nostalgia (in both form and content) that finds the 33-year-old singer on a spiritual quest to find some peaceful salvation in pop melody. “Trying to get myself back home,” he sings halfway through. By the time he reaches the series of codas that conclude Gone Now, Antonoff sounds like he’s just arrived at his destination.

Key Tracks

“Everybody Lost Somebody”
Antonoff strives for the universal and lands on the anthemic on this horn-laden mid-tempo ballad, which utilizes Bleachers’ go-to retro flourishes (’80s drums, reverb, crashing synths) to great effect.

“Goodmorning”
“Somebody lend me a favor, ” Antonoff pleads over this Ben Folds-worthy piano-pop riff. On an album full of humble apologies and delicate goodbyes, the second song on Gone Now serves as the album’s guiding statement.

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