“I could probably name thousands of albums that I want,” Jack Antonoff muses, sifting through the stacks at Permanent Records in Greenpoint, Brooklyn (just blocks, coincidentally, from Café Grumpy, where his girlfriend, Lena Dunham, pretends to work on HBO’s Girls).
Lucky for us, the 30-year-old fun. guitarist and vinyl junkie kept his focus on a select few, including vintage punk favorites and a Boss classic, and reflected on the role they’ve played in his musical education. One title Antonoff couldn’t find? His own band Bleachers’ debut, Strange Desire, released July 15 and featuring the lead single “I Wanna Get Better,” which currently sits at the top of the Alternative Songs chart. “That, I desperately want,” he says. “It’s coming!”
Below, the results of his haul after spending sunny Saturday perusing vinyl with EW. —Ray Rahman
Belle & Sebastian, If You’re Feeling Sinister and The Boy with the Arab Strap
“Both those albums are very linked with memories of being on the road for the first time. I was 16, I borrowed my parents’ minivan. We went all the way to Florida and Texas and made a combined $300. We got paid in corn dogs in Mobile, Alabama. We were playing, like, anarchist bookshops and s - - - holes; it wasn’t about the shows, ’cause the shows were almost nonexistent. But I just really fell in love with it.
It was about being out with a group of people and we feeling like we were getting away from something. I still feel like that. It really thrills me.”
Bruce Springsteen, Tunnel of Love
“New Jersey is an amazing place to grow up in, and I’m just starting to realize this now that I’m little bit older and I’ve seen more. To grow up five miles outside of the greatest city in the world is a bizarre experience. It’s sort of an incredible one. You always feel like you’re on the outside, like you’re looking into the window of the party.There’s sort of this underdog quality – this pride and hope and passion that comes with that. I think Bruce Springsteen embodies that.
When I was growing up, I thought the city was so cool and I started going to high school [at the famed Professional Childrens School in Manhattan]. All the kids I met in high school grew up in the city, had, like, done all the drugs, had all the sex, seen all the bands. By the time they were fifteen, they were over it and I was still so excited to be in the city and to be a part of it.
When I was growing up, it was a lot of punk and hardcore music going on in legion halls and firehouses, and we’d play those shows and it was very Jersey. It was very suburban and there’s just a great pride there. It’s almost like the hope you grow up with of hoping to get out of New Jersey ends up being the hope that you learn to love about being from New Jersey.”
Spoon, Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga
“I refuse to say all the Ga’s. [Laughs] I think ‘The Ghost of You Lingers’ is one of the most creative recordings I’ve ever heard in my life. The panning and the -different kinds of reverb on [frontman Britt Daniel’s] voice—it’s so neat.”
Tom waits, The Heart of Saturday Night and Closing Time
“These are two of my favorites of all time, particularly Heart of Saturday Night. It’s this weird, lounge-y kind of album, and I don’t know why it resonates so much with me. He’s been through so many phases—no matter how his voice has changed or if it sounds like pirate music or jazz or whatever, at the core he’s one of the greatest songwriters of all time. Which is probably why so many other artists have had number one Tom Waits songs and he hasn’t.”
Operation Ivy, Energy
“That’s kind of the s— I grew up on. I started buying vinyl records when I got into punk music, because in the punk scene in New Jersey, vinyl was more like a necessity than a luxury. People would make seven-inches because they were cheaper to make—it was just part of the culture. You’d have [formative California punks] Operation Ivy and U.S. Bombs or whoever doing the split seven-inch.
I started having tons of records, so I bought a record player, and it just started being this thing. And, you know, listening to records and buying vinyl is a totally different experience. It’s not infinite, it doesn’t exist forever, it doesn’t exist in a cloud. You have to put it on the right way and you have to make sure the device you’re on won’t destroy it. You have to protect it. It’s a much more personal experience.
Not to knock the iPod culture, either. It’s awesome to flip through a million things. But my favorite thing to do on my phone is to put it on shuffle. The problem with that is every fifth song is from a comedy album. [Laughs]”
Fleetwood Mac, Tusk
“It was pretty much their failure record, but I think Tusk crushes Rumours. Artistically, it’s just unbelievable. And you feel like you can hear Lindsey Buckingham unraveling. That song ‘Not That Funny’ I heard was about, like, his girlfriend at the time going to Disney World without him, and I just think it’s the darkest, most incredible thing ever. Tusk is brilliant, front to back.”