The highest compliment I can pay Bleachers’ third record, Take The Sadness Out Of Saturday Night, is that it is resoundingly worthy of its Bruce Springsteen feature. Those words—‘feat. Bruce Springsteen’—don’t appear on too many songs. The Boss is, understandably, selective about which songs he chooses to lend his vocal talents and fiery, soulful passion to; seeing his name on the second track of this record took me aback and automatically raised my expectations before I had even heard the first note.
It became the one thing that revolved around my head with every progressive track and consecutive listen—does the album in its entirety live up to that name? And after listening to this record close to a dozen times, scraping new meanings from every song and every moment with each new listen, I have come to the conclusion that yes, the record is worthy of The Boss.
Take The Sadness Out Of Saturday Night is really artistic. Full of raw instrumentation—screaming saxophones and lots of acoustic guitars—it has a certain kind of soul and spirit to it, that intangible concept that exists only in a slim category of music that bypasses your brain and connects music with your heart. There’s just something about this record that is almost inexpressible, something that feels just out of reach of normal description—heart and soul. It is a beautiful element, made even more so by the rarity with which it is heard in today’s fast-changing music scene; an environment that focuses on over-production to create listenable tracks; an environment that cares only about the single.
And in that environment, this record shines as a true album; a cohesive canvas of anthems and poetry, juxtaposition and pain and hope.
This album is strong in so many areas, the most obvious being its fantastic, carefully thought-out pacing. From the driving anthem of “Chinatown” to the mournful funeral-march of “What’d I do With All This Faith,” Jack Antonoff brings you on a journey over mountains; climbing to peaks and falling to valleys; stumbling downhill and then soaring with majesty and might. This kind of pacing is vital to a cohesive record; it keeps me engaged, pulled to each consecutive song, never bored of the album, always anxious for the next song to start playing.
And tied between this great variety of songs is proof of Antonoff’s skill as a songwriter and producer—skill that has landed him work with Taylor Swift and Lana Del Ray—he intrinsically understands melody. He finds the hook of each song, a hook that pulsates in your head and resonates in your chest, and wastes little time in bringing that hook forward and embellishing it, strengthening it with each consecutive chorus.
The first song I must bring up is the one that sold me on the record. This song pulled me into Antonoff’s story and told me that this record is something special: “Chinatown (Feat. Bruce Springsteen).”
This song is a thing of exceptional beauty, something that is apparent right at that opening acoustic intro that quickly features a fun—and emotional—vocal run before showcasing the main melody on strings, one of my favorite emotional additions to a good song. The melodic motif of the verse, and its gradual build in volume and slight change in pace as each verse morphs into the chorus is a masterclass on songwriting. The bridge is subtle, which is perfect, as it does not take the power or weight away from the following moment: another chorus, this time supplemented by Bruce Springsteen.
When that chorus starts, I get chills. That chorus with Springsteen makes a good song great. And it serves the overall tone of the song fantastically, as Springsteen’s vocals are so suited for a build in intensity and power—and that is what the song does; it builds in power until it fades out. This song is really something special. It is Antonoff’s best song as Bleachers, without a doubt.
And a fantastic, unexpected aspect of this song comes in its immediate follow-up, the vibey, fast-paced track “How Dare You Want More.”
The electric guitar intro is a little recalcitrant of Vampire Weekend and just resounds with pure emotion; here, of inescapable, irrepressible joy. The drum kit, the vocals, the lyrics are all great—but this song features so many amazing saxophone moments, both in the form of fills and full-length solos. That little element—on the first listen—told me that this record is worthy of Bruce Springsteen. The screaming sax element is such a Springsteen thing that the sax moments on this track seem part homage and gesture, part pure musical genius. It elevates the track to a whole different level, marking another song that belongs very high up on Antonoff’s list of his best tracks.
The moment toward the end where the sax trades of solos with a guitar on different tones with different pedals was a great break in the song and a great nod to the style of 1930s big band Jazz. As that solo section breaks into a full-on return to the chorus, now built with endless and unrestrained sax fills, I feel nothing but elation.
I do not consider many songs to be perfect—to me, a perfect song has to satisfy two things: the analytical, music-theory side of my brain, and the emotional, unexplainable and intangible part of my brain and my heart that provides an intrinsic and powerful connection to the music I love.
Those two songs are perfect songs, and this record is just about as close to perfect as it gets.