Artists make music for lots of reasons. There is no way of always knowing exactly why, whether talent, stress relief, passion, or other (or all of the above). Music and dancing are often synonymous, especially with those who have no tolerance for mood-altering substances. Music and drugs also get paired up often. Lots of small minded people only like music you can dance to, and lots of other people only like music with which you take multitudes of drugs. But there is a scary in-between place, one that involves a sort of emotional turmoil that is so intense, it effects us in frighteningly lucid ways. Antlers fall into the category of do not touch if you're easily depressed, live vicariously through song, or hope to die by your own hand. This one isn't for the light of heart. Hospice
is a spooky diatribe into dark corners and concepts. Its essentially a concept album focused on watching someone die. So there.
is an album derived from and all about isolation, and thus comparisons to Justin Vernon's melancholic Bon Iver abounded (including from P4K). But I'd disagree terribly; The Antlers are the ugly side of Emma
. While Bon Iver paints loneliness as a fragile tear drop or something pretty and weak, Antlers take it to more of a disturbing imagery kind of place, hard and desolate. Nearly every track is unsettling in one way or another; piercing silence, the smack of singer Peter Silberman's lips, uncomfortable chord progressions, and melodies that cry more than sing. Watching someone die of cancer, for example, is a good comparison for how one feels during this record. Coincidentally it is the concept that Antlers were writing around when creating the narrative. And in this respect, Hospice
is a resounding success.
I'd imagine watching Antlers live is something of a black hole; instead of cheering and spinning, the audience is almost paralyzed in fear and pathos. "Kettering" literally puts chills in your spine. The synthesizers abounding on Hospice
only serve to further the detachment. It fosters a kind of impartiality for life, a disassociation with body and mind that I'd imagine most crazy people feel when they start to lose their minds. "Don't ever let anyone/tell you you deserve them." Talk about the cup being half empty. After a few listens, I can imagine having trouble sleeping at night.
From "Bear" to "Two," there is the faintest hint of optimism. "We'll be blind and dumb until we fall asleep" is almost a happy note for the misery being explored here. The three songs in the middle seem to explore whatever is left of the happiness that once existed in the mind of the narrator, including fantasies of children and togetherness. And "Two" is the happiest and most miserable song on Hospice
, a balance that comes as both a surprise and a relief.
For the most part, Hospice
is a dreary narrative, an ultimately depressed story. But the brilliance of its goal; documenting a specific scene and emoting the qualities of life and death, love and loss, is a triumph of musicianship. Especially considering the variety of clicks and whistles available to the modern musician, to hear Antlers pumping simple four chord riffs over and over on an aesthetic of subdued panic, is creepily satisfying. It is as much a breath of fresh air as a feeling of drowning... and with music like this, do you really want to be able to tell the difference? -joe puglisi
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MP3: The Antlers - "Two" (Hospice)
The Antlers on Myspace