The first time I was tuned into The Antlers was at the release of their last album Hospice. Its songs, which told the story of an emotionally abusive relationship told through the analogy of a hospice worker and a terminally ill patient, were quiet, emotionally heart wrenching pieces of art understated in the musical delivery that often lay quietly soothing behind the haunting high key vocals of the band’s founder, Peter Silberman. It came as no surprise that not only was Hospice heavily praised and listed on many album of the year lists, but also that they were picked up by a label (Hospice was self-released while they now come under Transgressive Records as well). This month sees the release of their latest album Burst Apart, but given the critical success of Hospice is it too much to expect the same quality of output from the band?
Burst Apart is very different from the band’s last release but yet at the same time, very similar. It sounds like one of the strangest things for a writer to perhaps say about a band but in this case it’s nothing but the truth. With Burst Apart we see the band writing songs that will perhaps appeal in a more widespread fashion. Yes, perhaps on this record there isn’t the cool kid indie appeal of songs like ‘Two’ but they still have some unashamedly indie style songs, they just seem more appealing to a wider range of people. That isn’t to say that The Antlers have lost the understated beauty to their music though; it’s still there, perhaps in more abundance that ever with the band happily layering keyboard samples, brass sections and pretty much everything but the kitchen sink, but it’s done in such a way that it is only ever to compliment the song which showcases the musicianship within the band.
On ‘Every Night My Teeth Are Falling Out’ the band move into territory that has made Death Cab For Cutie so popular, Silberman’s vocal delivery sounding frail and vulnerable behind entwined picked guitar melodies but still working to an immediency that perhaps was never really evident on Hospice. On ‘Parentheses’ the band sound very much like a nineties baggy Manchester band letting the drums take centre stage before a dance bassline comes in, finally making way to a fantastically jagged guitar riff. This is The Antlers as we’ve never heard them before, with ‘Parentheses’ in many ways an infectious pop song. ‘Corsicana’ on the other hand is The Antlers that many have grown to love, based around lightly strummed guitar chords with atmospheric keyboard work behind, Silberman gives a fantastically passionately sad performance here singing “We should hold our breath with mouths together now”. It’s simple song writing, but The Antlers have shown that unlike many, they can make it work.
Burst Apart perhaps isn’t as lyrically inspiring or affecting as its predecessor but musically it comes across as far more accomplished with the band wearing their eighties influences on their sleeve and yet still creating a sound that they can call theirs and only theirs. Hospice racked up a space on many critics top ten albums of the year lists, there’s no doubt that this record will achieve the same, if not more.
If you buy anything this year, make it this album.
Release date: 13th June 2011