Gone Now (Album Review)

Gone Now is the second album by Bleachers (Jack Antonoff), released June 2, 2017. After listening to it many, many times, here are some of my thoughts on it. 

Gone Now feels like a story. Like a tragedy simultaneously unfolding and being dealt with, all between music that isn’t devastatingly sad, that isn’t energetically joyful, but walks that perfect bittersweet line in between. You can’t decide between triumphantly celebrating surviving something you never thought you’d survive, or collapsing into yourself with leftover devastation. The music feels anxious and sad but also distinctively hopeful and full to the brim with courage.

Bleachers has always, to me, felt like the kind of music you maybe find yourself humming to because it’s so catchy, and then you really sit back and listen to the lyrics and the meaning, and it’s devastating, and so powerful, and it hits you so hard with its depth and emotional complexity as you explore it further.

Gone Now has exactly that type of emotional intimacy and vulnerability. Sure, at the end of the day, it’s still an album that’s being bought and heard by thousands and thousands of others around the world, likely sometimes at the same time you’re listening to it. But you still feel, in the dead of the night, that it’s you and you alone with the music.

Personally, Gone Now feels like someone waking up one morning and slowly saying goodbye to the world. Fading away bit by bit, in a deeply introspective and personal montage. It’s a whole life condensed into a day, a weekend. Waking up, walking through the world, then they’re gone. As Jack mentioned in an interview before, this album reflects an idea about what everything would be like if he’s gone, and the cover of the album is what he envisions his picture would be like displayed at his funeral.

In that vein, and amongst all the complex issues Gone Now explores, this album really does condense a lot of emotional power into twelve tracks. It’s grief, loss, recovery, farewell, love, heartbreak, falling apart and holding yourself together, all woven between powerful melodies and layers and layers of sound and catchy vocals and music.

Simply put, it’s a certain type of catharsis coming alive in the form of an album.

Recurring themes tie the album together into a cohesive journey; no song really stands in a vacuum on its own, even though each has a distinct enough sound, setting them apart. Self references, repeated phrases, everything creates a cyclic story that makes the album less a collection of songs sat together and more of an interconnected emotional story from beginning to end. Initially, ‘Dream of Mickey Mantle’ directly references ‘I Miss Those Days’ and ‘Don’t Take the Money’; “I miss those days so I sing a don’t take the money song.” But there are so many more threads within the album.

Saying goodbye. Moving on. Leaving. Lost. Rolling thunder and cursed bedrooms. Strangers. Street corners. I gotta get myself back home soon. I just gotta get home.

Goodmorning, to the cops, to the kids, anyone who lent me a favour. Goodbye, to the friends I had, to my upstairs neighbour, to the kids downstairs, to the dream downstairs, anybody who lent me a favour.

And the very end of the album, at the end of Foreign Girls: “Goodbye…You should know that I loved you all.”

The honesty and devastation in the album never loses its impact even dozens of listens later. It’s an emotional concept album, and it feels, at the end of the day, exactly what a second Bleachers album would sound like. As a huge fan of Jack’s music, I didn’t fully know what I was waiting for, only that I was eagerly awaiting new Bleachers music, but after listening to the album, I knew I was waiting for this.

Apart from the themes and emotional impact of the album, sonically, there are so many intricate layers to every song that I’m still a little in awe every time I relisten to the album.

Jack recently posted the Making Of videos of ‘Don’t Take The Money’ and ‘Goodmorning’ on his Youtube channel. Amongst many other things, little intricate details like the sounds of the street recorded and played in the background of ‘Don’t Take The Money’, the harp in the background of the song that gives it its deeply bittersweet emotion; the trumpet in ‘Goodmorning’, the warped voice recordings — all these little details that we don’t consciously notice listening to the music, but which really, really complete the songs — all of those details give Bleachers’ music the depth that I really love about it time and time again.

Along the line of Bleachers’ music, on a final note, Gone Now also feels in some ways like a musical sequel to Strange Desire. The ‘I’m Ready To Move On’ in the 11th track of Gone Now. The “I wanna be grateful” that can be heard at a few points in the album. And also, if I sit down and listen to Strange Desire from beginning to end, and have ‘Who I Want You To Love’ fade into ‘Dream of Mickey Mantle’, it has an almost natural progression forward.

Gone Now is almost definitely one of my favourite albums of the year, and it’s not even mid July yet. It’s an emotional and incredible musical experience at any time, but personally, it really does have a special impact listened to at night — on a long drive, on a walk through the neighbourhood alone, lying in bed before falling asleep.

There are so many more things that could be said but what it really comes down to is that this is definitely an album that deserves a listen — then several dozen relistens. And many, many more.