As the guitarist for pop-rock stars fun., Jack Antonoff helped build a sound that brought Eltonian grandeur to the kind of open-wound introspection that's usually confined to the dark, comfy corners of emo records. With this one-man side project, he goes deeper into his Eighties synth-rock and Arcade Fire influences, piling snazzy hooks and knotty feelings into ravenously over-the-top therapy rock. The hit "I Wanna Get Better," which came with a video directed by his girlfriend, Lena Dunham, sets the mood with its buoyant affliction. "I'm standing on the overpass screaming at myself," Antonoff hollers over tense Cure guitars, before a thunderous chorale and hyperactive synthesizers rush in behind him. Nothing else on Bleachers' debut quite reaches that height, and enticing collaborations with art-pop heavies like Yoko Ono fall flat. But the bright ideas keep coming like mosquitoes at a backyard BBQ, from "Rollercoaster" – which suggests a colder-hearted update of Modern English's "I Melt With You" – to "Shadow," which piles on Eighties echoes (Tears for Fears, Duran Duran) into a bear-hug anthem for anyone "feeling small." Rest easy: Antonoff's big-sounding songs are a warm, safe place for the whole world to hide.
From The Archives Issue 1214: July 31, 2014