In 2009 The Antlers released their debut LP as a group, Hospice. Somehow, beyond my grasp, it went completely under my radar. I eventually got a copy in the summer of 2010 based on a review I had read. The album is mesmerizing. It plays like a waking nightmare at times, where you aren’t sure what you’re seeing or hearing is real. The track “Bear” nearly brought me to tears with it’s brutal honesty and desperate yearning. Needless to say, I was a fan of the record.
When I heard that one of the albums that would be kicking off the summer listening season was going to be The Antlers Burst Apart, I nearly fainted. The fact that they have a new album was close to the best news I’d ever heard. The idea that it was going to be released the same day as Okkervil River’s new record turned my day into a John Lennon and Yoko Ono album.
Generally when I review a record, I talk about it a bit before I start getting into specific songs, but I see fit to change things up on this occasion. There is a song on Burst Apart, the closing track in fact, that needs to be brought to everyone’s attention here and now. It is disturbingly beautiful and needs to have a genre made up to fit it correctly, because one does not exist at this moment.
It kicks off with a kind of discordant reverb, then the lyrics:
“Prove to me that I’m not going to die alone. Put your arm around my collarbone and open the door. Don’t lie to me. If you’re putting the dog to sleep. That pet you just couldn’t keep. Couldn’t afford.”
The lines are enunciated with a guitar riff reminiscent of a 50’s doo-wop song. If Elliott Smith had covered “Earth Angel,” it might have sounded something like “Putting The Dog To Sleep.”.
Pete Silberman has a voice that can crush your spirit and make your soul sing at the same time. His ability to paint such vivid and haunting imagery is unmatched. Even my idol and all-around good guy Josh Ritter doesn’t have the knack Silberman has for creating an atmosphere wholly new to the listener.
Like Hospice, Burst Apart isn’t going to get people on their feet dancing. The only really uptempo song on the record is “Every Night My Teeth Are Falling Out.” It’s a great song. Somewhat akin to Death Cab’s “I Will Possess Your Heart,” in that it continually builds on itself until it explodes. Then it ends and you’re left wondering what the hell just happened.
The rest of the album is fairly slow-paced, deliberately so. It’s an album to sit in the dark with and consider the themes of death and loss and loneliness. Silberman doesn’t shy away from his fears or his desires. He writes songs from the heart, without letting his brain get in the way (though he appears to be wicked smart as well).
The production and sounds on Burst Apart are going to be familiar to anyone who has heard The Antlers first record. They didn’t go too far from what they know, but they seem to have perfected their formula on this new release. Silberman’s high-pitched howls, Michael Lerner’s restrained yet driving percussion work, and Darby Cicci’s perfectly toned trumpet come together on the track “Hounds” and prove how amazingly well this group works together.
If this is a sign of things to come this summer, color me excited. We’ve already been graced with awesome releases from some of my favorite bands this year (I’m looking at you Decemberists!) and this one is easily one of the best. Check it out and spin the album about four or five times before you make up your mind. It definitely gets better with each listen.
The Antlers are going on tour soon, and stopping in Chicago on June 11th. Our friends at Saki are currently giving away a spot on the guest list for the show at Metro to the first person to buy Burst Apart, which comes out next Tuesday, May 10th.