Bleachers’s debut “Strange Desire” is a darkly sunny contradiction

Bleachers’s “Strange Desire” features dark and heavy themes, but is still catchy and easily relatable. (Photo courtesy of RCA Records)

Bleachers’s “Strange Desire” features dark and heavy themes,
but is still catchy and easily relatable. (Photo courtesy of RCA
Records)

The songs on this summer’s “Strange Desire” were kept secret for a long time. Written sporadically while Bleachers frontman Jack Antonoff was on tour with the mega-popular symphonic-pop band fun., the tracks remained in the shadows until announcements of the new band, the new album and a new single (“I Wanna Get Better”) finally came to light — late in the game and all at once.

Officially a side project for Antonoff, and one he promises won’t take him away from his spot in the fun. lineup, Bleachers is an indie undertaking that is equal parts pop shine and introspective bite — bright and dark, all at once.

News of this upcoming album kicked off with the great, stuttering knockout that is “I Wanna Get Better.” It’s a sharp, anthemic track that shows off Antonoff’s lyric-writing skill with lines like, “So, I put a bullet where I shoulda put a helmet / And I crash my car cause I wanna get carried away,” and, “I didn’t know I was lonely ‘til I saw your face… / I didn’t know I was broken ‘til I wanted to change.”

Despite the song’s heavy subject matter, it’s ultimately an uplifting track, a story of realizing when it’s time to dust yourself off and change your circumstances.

It certainly isn’t the lightest summer tune, but it just might be the most inherently positive. Paired with a darkly comedic music video in which Antonoff plays an out-of-touch therapist, “I Wanna Get Better,” is a must-listen track you’ll find yourself replaying over and over in your head.

Bleachers’s “Strange Desire” then transitions into another of the album’s singles: “Like a River Runs.” Despite its serene title, the track features a pitter-patter intro that segues into a vintage chorus and affixes itself to the sounds of classic ’80s synths. Chanting vocals weave together to form yet another arena-ready song that echoes the nostalgia of bands like The Killers.

No less perfect for shouting along to at a show is the third single off the band’s debut: “Rollercoaster.” A fever dream of a track, about a summer romance gone so very, very wrong, “Rollercoaster,” is heavy on those ’80s synths and light on the pining. It’s the best kind of song for that moment where you start to wonder, “How did I ever get into that?”

Antonoff isn’t really sure, either, but the story makes for another bright crack of energy on an album that is already full-to-bursting with pop gems.

Switching gears, “Strange Desire” also features “Shadow,” a song about loving someone despite his or her insecurities. Clap along to the drum-smashing chorus and what seems like a hundred layers of instrumentals sprinkled throughout this track.

It’s yet another example of Antonoff’s ability to infuse this album with both lyrics that’ll grab you and melodies that’ll move you. The songs play like journal entries; they’re deceptively sunny, considering the frontman’s earnestness about some pretty dark issues.

So. when it comes to Bleachers, don’t feel guilty if you find yourself bobbing your head and singing along happily to tracks about the hurt and insecurity and confusion that come along with being young. You’re not the only one.

Reach the reporter at svhabib@asu.edu or follow her on Twitter @discoanddessert.