There’s an interesting concept behind the latest Jack Antonoff—a.k.a. Bleachers, and member of both fun. and previously Steel Train—release, Terrible Thrills Vol.2: It’s a halfway point between a remix and cover album, featuring all the songs from Bleachers’ debut album of last year, Strange Desire, covered by a variety of female artists in varying styles. Featuring contributions from the likes of Sia, Carly Rae Jepsen, Tinashe and others. The result is obviously a bit of a mixed bag in terms of genres, but quality-wise it’s turned out better than expected.
Perhaps the oldest and most publicised track for this release was Charli XCX’s cover of Rollercoaster, originally appearing in Kia car commercials as they covered each other’s songs; this marks the release of her full cover. It’s also one of the most faithful on the album; rarely do they bear much semblance to their beginning point, but Charli’s is basically note for note the same song, slightly altered to suit. On the other side of the coin, you get covers such as Lucius’ take on Wake Me: A dated, fuzzy cover in true 50s style, with occasional barbershop backing vocals and plenty of organ and guitar as they sing along to the original lyrics. While Charli’s cover is solid, the more adventurous ones that venture from their source material are the album’s highlights.
The wildest such transformation—and another of the album’s earliest tracks, originally appearing on the Like a River Runs EP, released back in June—unsurprisingly comes from Sia: The power pop of Like a River Runs is transformed into a full-fledged ballad, with a piano base and sweeping string arrangements, and plenty of tracks of Sia’s vocals layered in the chorus. The only unlikable track comes from Brooke Candy and Jack’s fashion designer sister Rachel Antonoff; their joined cover of Take Me Away mixes Candy’s chirpy rapping style with Antonoff’s smoother, albeit minimal vocals over a highly faithful instrumental; there’s a jarring element here due to Candy’s inability to really click with the song. This is the one faithful moment on the album where some experimentation would have been a major benefit.
It’s hard to complain about faithful covers when there’s so many different styles on offer, though. From Tinashe’s synth-packed pop cover of I Wanna Get Better to Sara Bareilles’ trap-influenced cover of Wild Heart, there’s something for most listeners to enjoy here. There’s a strange connection between the songs despite the variety, potentially from keeping the album’s tracks in the same order; it’s odd for a remix cover album to feel this faithful and connected, but it’s also something that’s appreciated, and makes it much more enjoyable in the process. Terrible Thrills is an interesting detour before Antonoff’s second solo LP comes out; one that’s welcomed with eagerly open arms.