Sunday, July 19, 2009

New Music Review: The Antlers - Hospice

Already hailed as the best album of 2009 so far by NPR, Hospice by The Antlers attempts to secure its place in the canon of epic indie rock albums (Funeral, The Moon & Antarctica, et al.). The lyrics, which read like a novel rather than poetry or a series of disjointed phrases, tell a story from the perspective of a man losing a lover (current or ex, it's unclear) to cancer at a hospital ward and detail the memories and feelings that ensue. Discussing his past relationship with his loved one, from abortion ("When we get home we're bigger strangers than we've ever been before/You sit in front of snowy television, suitcase on the floor," from "Bear") to rushing into a lifelong commitment ("Two silver rings on our fingers in a hurry," from "Two"), it's obvious that the narrator has been through a lot of turmoil with this dying woman even without taking her cancer into consideration. Indeed, Antlers songwriter Peter Silberman does a great job of getting the listener invested in the story; throughout the album, the listener feels the narrator's (and, in some cases, his loved one's) pain.

However, sometimes the music comes off as too epic for its own sake, most likely in an effort to match the grand scope of the story. While "Prologue" is, predictably, an instrumental introduction, following track "Kettering" also feels like an introduction, resulting in nearly seven minutes of studio trickery and guitar feedback that do little to heighten the anticipation before the album really takes off with "Sylvia." Other songs also have similar moments that just go on too long for no real reason; "Atrophy" and "Wake" have extended instrumental sections consisting of the aforementioned feedback and trickery that bloat the song lengths to nearly eight and nine minutes respectively. Thanks to these moments, the album largely comes off as too slow and meandering; the best moments are when the band picks up the pace a bit such as in "Bear" and "Two," which not so coincidentally are the songs that have been garnering The Antlers the most praise in the press. Clearly, The Antlers put a lot of thought and heart into Hospice, which is always great to see. However, getting rid of some of their overly bombastic tendencies could eventually elevate them from 'good' to 'great' status.

While independently released earlier this year, Hospice will be rereleased by Frenchkiss Records on August 18th. Stream some songs from the album here. The Antlers will be playing their closest area show on July 25th at Iron Horse in Northampton, MA, opening for Frightened Rabbit.

1 comment:

ilikewrpi said...

obviously i need this album, post-haste! good spot!