Release Date: Aug 18, 2009
Record label: Frenchkiss
Genre(s): Indie, Rock, Folk
Who could've guessed that SNMNMNM were ahead of the curve? In 2009, you kind of need to know some C++ just to talk about bands. The trend began in dreamy California, which gave us the skuzzy-sweet Nodzzz and Wavves, and then migrated as far as Nebraska (UUVVWWZ) and Glasgow (Dananananaykroyd). Meanwhile, in serious Brooklyn, the Antlers were quietly working on a coincidental antithesis to this fad.
Is there anyone left in Brooklyn who isn't in an indie rock band? Add the Antlers to the long list of burrough bands, but also to the much shorter list of good bands that call that launch pad home. [rssbreak] The trio pairs patient sonic landscaping (similar to No Age's ethereal instrumentals) with anguish-soaked anthemic indie rock in the Arcade Fire/Wolf Parade ballpark. Hospice isn't uplifting or hopeful; it explores themes of dejection through delicate, beautiful sounds.
The Antlers’ Hospice is a story album in the same vein of Lou Reed’s Berlin and that indie-rock Mount Rushmore candidate In the Aeroplane Over the Sea, but the album’s narrative arc about a symbiotic relationship between a dying woman and the man she has paid to take care of her is the last thing you get around to noticing. From the opening hum of “Prologue” through the sun-through-the-curtains mood of “Epilogue,” an oppressive sonic austerity envelops the album, as Antlers replicate the sterility and blinding whiteness of a modern hospital. Just on its music alone, Hospice would work well as the soundtrack for a nightmarish horror film set in a psych ward.
Over the past six months, bloggers have been falling over their online personas praising the depth of feeling and haunting singularity of vision that characterizes Hospice, the first major offering from Brooklyn’s the Antlers. If you haven’t heard about it yet, you must have a real job or a life. Good for you. The story of the album’s genesis—how it’s the product of months of self-imposed isolation on the part of young songwriter Peter Silberman, brought on by a soul-shaking personal event that he has only referred to obliquely in interviews—has been told many times, in as much detail as Silberman will allow.
While it may not be the only way, one manner in which great songs are created is necessity. In other words, the songwriter is compelled to write a song or songs, not by their record company or market forces, but inspired by a new love or heartbreak, or sometimes tragedy. Peter Silberman's songs that populate The Antler's Hospice are just such a batch.
Even if you had no information about the concept behind the record, you’d guess there’s some personal backstory lending weight to Hospice, the debut album from The Antlers; making the moments of quiet as imperative as the loud. Hospice is an album of white walls, long desolate passages, and sudden blitzkriegs of high emotional drama – it’s not always comforting, but the players are hyper-attentive to the nuances of each note and lyric. Lyric-wise, main Antler Pete Silberman has re-fashioned the life and works of Sylvia Plath, grafting them onto the story of a terminally ill child visited by a ghost.
The Antlers - the invention of Brooklyn boy Peter Silberman, though often playing as a trio - write pretty little pop songs and then slather them in cascading waves of warm, fuzzy feedback, ending up sounding like an indiepop Sunn 0))) with the man in the moon on lead vocals. The near-constant solar-wind noises blowing around every song give Hospice a drifting, night-sky quality which, while hardly unprecedented at the shoegazey end of indie rock, proves particularly distinctive here. Jeff Buckley and Arcade Fire raise their endlessly influential heads now and then, and Silberman goes all in for the quiet/loud effect at times.
Everything about this album is downright fantastic: the story-like liner notes with italics to depict narratives and quotes to showcase dialogue, the blend of loud-soft-loud music and the way both are married to create an astonishing listen. This quintet of musicians are making a name for themselves and with Hospice, they have remarkably made one of 2009’s best albums. This music is ridiculously magical; with its noise-deafening highs and tender reservations, the band is able to provide just the right amount of balance to deliver a knockout.