Posted on August 19th, 2009 (10:33 am) by Bradley Hartsell

While circulating the net, The Antlers gathered a bit of a reputation as being similar to The Arcade Fire. The Antlers, at least on Hospice, carry weighty subject matter (not unlike a Win Butler song), but the comparisons seemingly end there; musically, the two bands are drastically different. The Arcade Fire’s swelling baroque art-rock is far too grandiose and pummeling for anything in The Antler’s wheelhouse. Lyrical content seems like such a flimsy way of aligning bands; Pavement and Sonic Youth are often thrown in together, yet Stephen Malkmus’ wordplay wouldn’t have anything on a SY song (or anybody else’s for that matter). Sonically speaking, I find a more fitting comparison in Grizzly Bear. Antlers front man Peter Silberman sounds at times like a spot on impression of Daniel Rossen. Yes, I know comparing voices is just as lazy as lyrics, but if you can start with voices and build further, everything starts falling into place. Both bands control the atmosphere with such precision, it’s admirable. Grizzly Bear does it with baroque-folk, full band style, while the Antlers use sparse, wispy instrumentation but both are done with an eye on maximizing the space in which the songs come forth. With Silberman’s Rossen-like voice, the haunting aura of the instruments, and song structure, the Antlers feel like they’re in Grizzly Bear’s camp. That said, The Antlers’ instrumental style is quite different than that of the aforementioned act; nonetheless, they totally own their sound and deliver a fantastic album.

Peter Silberman isolated himself from the world for a year and half, fractured friendships, and recorded this album. That back-story, combined with the fact that Hospice was inspired from visiting a loved one in a children’s cancer ward, you get the feeling ole Pete isn’t the most chipper of people. His heavy heart guides this album, as every track passes through with a somber glaze over it. Thoughtful piano chords, lightly plucked guitars, softly tapped drums, drowsy keyboards, and spacey song structure describe all of the hazy, bleary-eyed pop music that makes up Hospice. Each song tweaks the use of those instruments, sometimes throwing in a horn or bell sounds, to give identity to each song, but the formula is familiar enough to each one that the album is wildly cohesive. “Kettering” “Two” and “Bear” may be the standouts of the record due to their catchiness amid the melancholy Silberman evokes, but the album features no slouches, as the space between those aforementioned songs are filled well with sonically rich music. They begin to reveal their beauty with repeated listens as the catchiness of “Bear” and “Two” becomes familiar. “Thirteen” is a nice wedge between those two tracks with a first half that sounds like it would have been totally at home amongst Merriweather Post Pavilion’s shimmering electronics, but it’s a brief and minor connection.

Aside from Silberman’s sublime vocal performance, the most outstanding quality about this record is the evocative presence of the keyboard. Oddly enough, the keyboard provides almost no melodic quality, yet thrives on rich atmospheric textures. Reverberated swirls, howls, and screeches add to the density of the record and contours easily to the already morbid context. It’s a testament to Silberman’s abilities as a songwriter to construct an album so depressing in subject matter, as well as instrumentally, without sounding overdramatic or heavy-handed. The sadness that pours from this album sounds real, and though the events that inspired Silberman deserve extreme sympathy, it makes for a powerful listen.

From beginning to end, Silberman’s year and a half hiatus from society is well-worth it. Hospice is an emotionally driven album with superb instrumentation and great subtle melodies. In parting, I hope things get better for Silberman, and I also hope he can craft an optimistic album with as much instrumental prowess as exists on this record. I know it is summer and you want burners and anthems, but fall is getting here fast and if you’re a fan of great music, Hospice is certainly worthy of a good long listen.

Track List:

1. Prologue (2:35)
2. Kettering (5:11)
3. Sylvia (5:28)
4. Atrophy (7:40)
5. Bear (3:54)
6. Thirteen (3:12)
7. Two (5:56)
8. Shiva (3:46)
9. Wake (8:44)
10. Epilogue (5:25)

Purchase at: Amazon | eMusic

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