Release Date: May 10, 2011
Record label: Frenchkiss Records
Genre(s): Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock, Alternative Pop/Rock
There’s no real getting away from the fact that Hospice, The Antlers’ last album, is a tiny mite miserable. It’s based on the idea of terminal illness as a metaphor for abusive relationship breakdown, after all. The band’s ability to remain epic and universal, while maintaining all the intensity of implication that album title suggests, has understandably brought quite a lot of expectation upon Hospice's follow-up.
Rife with emotion that manifested itself in sweeping movements and Peter Silberman’s somber vocals, The Antlers’ Hospice remains both heartbreaking and aurally striking. But for their follow-up, Burst Apart, the Brooklyn trio sidestepped the doom and gloom of their breakthrough album and leapt ahead into a decidedly less intense space. Taking hold of the buzzes that skittered across their last record, this effort sees The Antlers expand their range and ingrain electronic elements much deeper into these songs—which certainly plays a role in the lighter tone; shimmering keyboards make “French Exit” downright dancey while a hazy, recurring note on “Parentheses” becomes a siren’s call.
Brooklyn's indie scene can feel like a series of bands each trying to be hipper than the next, but thankfully nobody told Pete Silberman. In the dog days of 2009's deadbeat summer, the Antlers frontman emerged from his bedroom with his third LP, Hospice. On it, he unfashionably embraced hackles-raising choruses and concept-album ambition, and he pushed the button on emotional nuclear options: abortion, cancer, death, all that fun stuff.
Hospice, the critically acclaimed third album from Brooklyn's the Antlers – formerly just a solo project for Peter Silberman, but expanded to a trio – is a song suite about an emotionally abusive relationship set in a cancer ward. It's an exhausting, starkly direct listen that's unsurprisingly short on light and shade. For the follow-up, however, the band have expanded their sound, swaddling typically despondent lyrics in gorgeous electronic textures (Rolled Together, Tiptoe) and Portisheadesque beats, as on the glistening Parenthesis.
It’s become a classic maneuver: Ambitious, young rock band follows a direct, emotive breakthrough record with a retreat into cerebral electronic abstraction. If I were writing the rock playbook, I’d call it the Kid A Lateral. In the case of the Antlers, the move feels not only appropriate but necessary. The Brooklyn band’s Hospice was one of the best albums of 2009, but it was also the most emotionally exhausting entry in the expansive catalogue of bleak, confessional concept album’s since Tim Kasher dragged his divorce into the studio to make Cursive’s harrowing Domestica.
Hospice was a strange record. The first record featuring The Antlers in their current, trio alignment seemed to come onto the scene fully formed. And yet Burst Apart manages to be just as surprising without suffering the major lulls that marred Hospice..
The Antlers made a pretty sad record. You’ve probably heard it: despite being one of the most unrelentingly despairing albums in recent memory, Hospice (2009) quickly transformed from self-released bedroom project to one of the most lauded and loved records of the year, bringing the band a legion of new fans and sending the trio into bigger and bigger live venues. It’s a success story, but not a surprising one—yes, the concept album’s narrative focused on a doomed relationship between a hospice worker and a cancer patient, but head Antler (no pun intended) Peter Silberman crafted the tale with such precision and heart-wrenching detail that it was almost impossible to tear yourself away from the gloom.
In 2009, Antlers released Hospice, their show stopping and heavily metaphorical album about a man, a woman he cared about, and her imminent death in a hospital. Needless to say, it’s an impossible album to follow-up. How can you possibly try to recreate the fervor, the despair, and the blind ambition that leads you to doing a masterful song cycle about dying that is actually about your relationship breaking up? You can’t.
Review Summary: Winter's over.In an interview with Pitchfork this past January, Antlers frontman Peter Silberman related something Frightened Rabbit’s Scott Hutchinson had told him about performing deeply personal material: “It’s the audience’s now. You’ll sing it to them, but they’re the ones singing it. You can let it go and give it to them.” It’s hard to imagine Silberman standing up night after night and going through Hospice’s litany of heartache, an album that was painful even for an uninterested listener, not to mention the guy who suffered through its creation.
It’s not often a band promises to scale down their dramatics on only their second label-released album. But then again, it’s not often a band starts a career with an immense, devastating concept record about a dying patient and a beckoning hospice worker as a metaphor for a soured, gothic relationship. After clearing that lodestone from his brain, it actually makes sense that The Antlers’ creative force Peter Silberman would want to take a breather.
Peter Silberman never meant ‘Hospice’, The Antlers’ bedroom-recorded open wound relationship confessional, to be heard by so many people. If he has any resentment towards that record’s intense scrutiny, however, it doesn’t show on ‘Burst Apart’. A record that’s every bit the sonic departure it had to be, it nevertheless recalls its forebear’s themes, seeing matters of the heart from a more reflective stance.
Considering the rave reviews of the Antlers’ 2009 album and all the arena tours that followed, it could be misconstrued that a title like Burst Apart would be about the trials and tribulations of blowing up. Actually, Peter Silberman’s second album is an album without a concept -- a bit of a relief after the deathbed theme that weighed down Hospice. For Burst Apart, Silberman puts his personal tragedy behind him and starts anew by burying himself in electronics to make a unique sort of wistful chamber pop for the digital age.
Hospice was not just a breakthrough moment from a fresh-faced band. The debut album by Peter Silberman and the newly-minted lineup for his one-time solo bedroom project, The Antlers, was a work of singular vision and purity, the likes of which few artists of any medium achieve. Delving deep into the springs of indie rock, Silberman and company created an album that transformed familiar conventions through brilliant songcraft; dense, evocative language and imagery; and powerful, complex emotion.
How do you make a follow-up album to your undisputed career highlight? The Antlers'2009 album Hospice was a record of dizzying highs and soul crushing lows, all artfully balanced in a sound that perfectly mixed reverb laced ambient soundscapes with anthemic indie rock. It would have been near impossible to repeat. Luckily, they haven’t even tried.
For many, The Antlers’ Hospice still carries that fresh new feeling where it tidily lies between cult classic and massively underrated gem. Sure, there’s a convinced affinity in being able to love something that fits under a sheltered area that is hard to find and to this day, Hospice remains one of the strongest ‘indie-rock’ albums of the past five years. Those stories, encircled and written around a fractured time in frontman Peter Silberman’s life were deeply personal and moving.
A collection of mesmeric, epic stillness. Matthew Horton 2011 The Antlers' 2009 album Hospice was one of those niche successes. The sort that has the blogs purring, the odd clued-up broadsheet too, but doesn't quite stretch beyond the word-of-mouth glass ceiling. It deserved its kudos though, stirring up a quiet storm with ever so fragile atmospherics, Peter Silberman's heartbroken falsetto and songs that took hold simply through sticking around for so long, hardly moving a muscle, that they became part of your brain patterns.
THE ANTLERS “Burst Apart”. (Frenchkiss).
The Antlers' emotionally devastating full-length Hospice (2009), the band's debut as a trio as opposed to frontman Peter Silberman's solo act under that same moniker, left the Brooklyn threesome with a lot to live up to. To that end, Silberman and company revisit certain aural territory, like deploying the same interstitial techniques, dreamy murmurs bridging the mildly aggressive "French Exit" and the contemplative "Parentheses" in an attempt to strike a balance between electronica and a song-sound emotional wallop. While the sensually meandering "Rolled Together" offers itself as the perfect soundtrack to, uh, rolling together, and there isn't a bad tune here, there's not much of an emotional hook to hang on.