20 Watts

20 Watts Reviews The Antlers’ Hospice by Eric Vilas-Boas
Hospice hits all of the emotions hard and leaves its listener feeling just a bit better about life afterwards

Hospice hits all of the emotions hard and leaves its listener feeling just a bit better about life afterwards

PREVIEW: Download The Antlers’ “Sylvia” MP3
WE GIVE IT: 18/20 Watts

Do we love Bon Iver? Yes. Explosions in the Sky? Yes. Would we love a marriage of the two styles of music? This week The Antlers officially release Hospice, the tender and heartbreaking story of a man watching the love of his life dying from bone cancer in Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center.

Written by lead singer Peter Silberman after two years of isolation, it’s both a eulogy and a lament to love lost, and life cut short. It transcends its influences by offering up post-rock crescendoes, folky guitar lines and whispered lyrics so ephemerally vivid that it seems the entire spectrum of human emotion is showcased; from love, to despair and, eventually, to moving on.

The song “Kettering” begins simply. At first sounding like a poem set to a melancholy piano, it swells to include a rhythmic drum beat and distortion-heavy guitar. Silberman’s lyrics wrench at the listener, and just before the climax, he mutters, “I didn’t believe them when they told me that there was no saving you.” The album, like the best of Shakespeare, lets its audience know from the start that it’s a tragedy.

With “Sylvia,” The Antlers move into more abrasive territory. Like “Kettering,” it starts slowly and develops into the desperate yell: “Sylvia, get your head out of the oven. Go back to screaming and cursing, remind me again how everyone betrayed you.” The entire album, written in the first-person, is an explicit chronicle of Silberman’s experiences, and this song’s lyrics stand out, along with “Atrophy” and “Two” as some of his most effective.

However, on an album full of kickers, certain songs always stand out above the rest and “Bear” fits the bill for this one. While all of the album’s tracks possess their own unique sound, “Bear” is the only one that starts off like a Christmas song. With chiming bells complementing lyrics like, “We’ll play charades up in Chelsea, drink champagne (although you shouldn’t be) … But we’ll make only quick decisions, and  you’ll just keep me in the waiting room, and all the while, I’ll know we’re f**ked and not getting un-f**ked soon,” and instrumental jams set between the long verses, the overwhelming irony of the song shines through like something Morrisey could have written.

A twinge of resentment is obvious in “Bear,” and creeps up in various other forms throughout the record, but only edifies the songs and gives the listener a break from the depression. If the entire album moped and the narrator was never angry or resentful, it would be both boring and unconvincing. The chief qualities of the album are its realism and its sadness, found in its most abrasive lyrics and most expressive instrumental segments.

It can’t be stressed enough how masterfully Hospice is constructed. With post-rock and folk influences providing the backbone, Hospice is dangerously close to the top of the list for the best albums of the year so far, and has easily made the top tier already. Frenchkiss Records struck gold with this one.

— Eric Vilas-Boas


1 Comment

[…] Antlers managed to emotionally kill me last summer with their indie-label debut album Hospice. It was everything that affective post-rock […]

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