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Posted on June 12th, 2014 (9:00 am) by Arman Avasia

Do you hear that? That delicate, stilted piano playing? That ghostly, quavering voice? Those mournful horns? Do you hear them swelling ominously? There's no doubt about it. This is definitely the start of an Antlers album. As is always the case with their albums, the emotional and sonic landscape ofFamiliars is thick with melancholy, self-loathing and heartbreak. As is also always the case, for all their doom and gloom, the Antlers can't help but to betray a sliver of hope. After their more scattered approach to Burst Apart, Peter Silberman and company are returning to the subject that made them famous. Like Hospice, Familiars focuses on a disintegrating relationship. Unlike on Hospice, this relationship is ending because of the ordinary fights and faults all couples have, instead of death. This makes for a crucial difference. The hope the Antlers present on Familiars isn't just redemptive. It's rejuvenating.

For an album about a disintegrating relationship, it can be surprisingly focused on the self. In fact, after "Palace," which introduces the couple and reminisces about better times, the other person in the relationship vanishes until "Intruders," marking a pivotal shift in the album's tone. On "Doppelganger," one of the record's standout tracks, Silberman sings about self-loathing made manifest in the form of a literal monster. The phrase "do you hear the gentle tapping / my ugly creature's freezing" gains a certain gravitas when sung in Silberman's fragile falsetto. Still, the song is most arresting when he simply wails without words into the microphone, singing not of the monster, but as the monster. It's not very subtle but it doesn't have to be. The Antlers' music has always been about embracing emotional lows, which imbue even the smallest of victories with a monumental magnitude.

The main attraction of the Antlers' sound has always been Silberman's voice, arguably the most beautiful and easily the most tremulous, in contemporary music. On Familiars, he can still hit those pitches capable of shattering glass or hearts. What's new, are some seriously improved lyrical chops. On "Parade," he sings, "we're just a couple pairs of broken bones / with broken feathers and blood." It's a sentiment found on almost every Antlers song but it's never described so vividly as it is here. The newfound maturity in his songwriting seems to find its way into his speaker as well. On "Surrender," he gives up fighting and tells his lover, "you know I can't always talk / but I'm always listening" and, most importantly, "we have to make our history less commanding." It doesn't sound like a surrender. It sounds like a new beginning.

There are hints at exploring new sounds on Familiars. "Revisited," their seven minute epic, ends with some funky electronic textures and on "Refuge," the guitar riff has a distinct southern rock lilt to it. But although it's an emotional landscape they handle impeccably well, as long as they keep retreading the sound that made them famous on Hospice, it's hard to imagine the Antlers ever supplanting it as their masterpiece. Then again, it's hard to imagine anyone supplanting Hospice's place in the modern musical canon. Familiars might be familiar sounding, but that doesn't mean it's not a great album in its own right.

Track List:

  1. Palace
  2. Doppelganger
  3. Hotel
  4. Intruders
  5. Director
  6. Revisited
  7. Parade
  8. Surrender
  9. Refuge
The Antlers: Familiars
Purchase at: Amazon | eMusic

Our Rating

75 / 100
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