Jack Antonoff has been getting much acclaim lately for his remarkable production skills on records like Taylor Swift's reputation and Lorde's Melodrama. Besides being an incredible producer he has his own band, Bleachers. They have put out two records, the first being Strange Desire, with Gone Now following it.
On November 10th, a live album was released comprised of the songs that were recorded for MTV Unplugged. Something is to be said about music that can be completely stripped of its production, which it is solely based off of, yet still retain all of the emotion and meaning behind it. Artists such as Tegan and Sara and Bruce Springsteen, who have influenced Antonoff and his writing, have a strong presence in these altered versions.
The record starts off with a song from Gone Now, "Let's Get Married". Originally a fast paced, 80's pop infused song, Bleachers completely strip it of its production. The MTV Unplugged version starts with Antonoff and a guitar, singing it at a slower tempo. At the chorus, some piano comes into play following Antonoff's vocal line. Starting the album off with this song is an interesting choice, due to the vulnerability that was displayed by taking away all production and drastically changing the tone of the song, while still keeping it cheerful.
Having recorded these versions at The Stone Pony, in Asbury Park, New Jersey, in front of a live audience, added even more meaning to this performance. The Stone Pony, known for launching the careers of both Bon Jovi and Bruce Springsteen, is a historic venue that Antonoff felt honored to be playing in, especially since it is in his home state.
One of their most popular songs "Rollercoaster" was played during the beginning of the set. Antonoff's vocals sound as if he is telling a story to the crowd. It retains the feel good vibes and highlights the instrumentation of an acoustic guitar and piano as the song builds.
A few songs on the album feature other artists that he's worked with. Lorde sings on an acoustic, slowed down version of "Don't Take the Money", which she co-wrote with Antonoff. Lorde's breathy, yet sharp vocals add an entirely new layer to the song that makes it all the more appealing. Carly Rae Jepsen is featured on this version of "Shadow" having worked with Jepsen on some of her own music a few years ago, as well as working with her on her current project. Both Jepsen and Lorde sing background vocals on "Hate That You Know Me" giving the track a three dimensional feel. The performance starts off with a drum pad with an overlapping bongo and adds in the harmonization of Jepsen and Lorde, for which Jepsen was originally featured on.
This performance was the first for the songs off of "Gone Now". The band had been working on it for two years and this performance was a few months before the fully produced album was released to the public. This was the first performance of its kind for Bleachers and they nailed it.
Towards the end of the album they perform "I Miss Those Days", which they currently have a tour video out for. The raw sound of the saxophone, piano, and guitar add so much to the meaning of the lyrics, "And I'm sorry that you saw me when I lost my way/ But it's all coming back, yeah/ Like the feeling isn't over/ Hey, I know I was lost but I miss those days". He then asks for audience participation and its one of those moments that gives you chills.
The record ends on "I Wanna Get Better", that starts with a speech about the celebration of music that both Antonoff enjoys as well as the audience. While it's about anxiety, depression, loss, etc., it's also such an uplifting and motivational song that to end it on this note is genius. It allows the audience to feel less alone in any struggles that they may be having and assures them that pulling yourself out of the darkest of times is feasible. The audience joins in completing lyrics making it feel like a big group of friends shouting into the void for their happiness.