The Antlers – Burst Apart
Record Label: Frenchkiss
Release Date: May 10, 2011
I’m shamelessly one of Greg Graffin’s 21st-Century digital boys. With the speed of knowledge propagation, it’s hard not to be an information junkie, constantly craving the latest scoop on music, sports, technology, politics and pop culture. I sometimes imagine the AP.net readership as a legion of zombie-eyed Kurt Cobains transfixed by the glow of PC monitors absently chanting, “here we are now, entertain us.” Yet the sea of stuff bombarding our synapses seems to have, at least for me, a nerve-deadening effect. But at those times when I think I’m no longer capable of having feelings more profound than ambivalence, something like Hospice comes along to strike down those thoughts like a lightning bolt out of the darkness. The Antlers’ 2009 breakthrough has the rare power to play with listeners’ emotions like some sort of kid’s toy. Unlike My Chem’s use of the vague concept of death as an excuse to don creepy makeup, Peter Silberman’s account feels heartbreaking and crushingly real. It’s the type of record that’s so powerful, I suspect even those without proper context—that is, having had the misfortune of seeing a loved one breathe their last—can still appreciate the anguish. Hospice makes for a stark embodiment of the hopelessness and despair that well up inside as we see the end approach, as it inevitably must. Whether it’s spoken or tacitly understood, such moments are also a nagging reminder of our own mortality and its surrounding fears, fears the non-manic depressives among us largely suppress save for tossing out now-meaningless cliches like “live each day like it’s your last,” taking the “even though it isn’t” part for granted. Like us, Silberman can only allow his morbid fixation to last so long.
The Antlers’ new release Burst Apart marks a move away from the stifling bleakness; I doubt Silberman is even capable of delivering songs that don’t sound fragile and fraught with emotion, but there’s less in the way of pure desolation on this new set. It often seems like the case of the man behind Hospice, having experienced the joys of love and the agony of loss, moving past the grief, but at the same time erecting walls as a preventative measure against future heartache. The title of “I Don’t Want Love” says it all, and he closes “French Exit” with, “don’t try to fix my heart.” A sense of loneliness and emptiness pervades most of the album’s ten tracks, but you get the impression that, for Silberman, there’s some solace that through this emotional detachment, he can avoid the soul-sucking torment he’s been through before.
Like it’s predecessor, Burst Apart is simply an incredible sounding album. There’s a breathtaking elegance to The Antlers’ sound that recalls Talk Talk’s uncanny ability to be simultaneously intimate and intense and to say seemingly so much with so little. Like Talk Talk’s Mark Hollis, Silberman has some otherworldly range, and his vocals often serve as another instrument in the beautiful sonic whirlpool (see especially the head-shakingly gorgeous “No Widows” and “Hounds”). The end product is exceedingly easy to get lost in, but unlike Hospice, it doesn’t hold us rapt with feelings of unease and dread but is instead rather comforting. Hospice is a record we can praise for its hauntingly ethereal sound and harrowing depiction of brutal reality, but it’s not something we can revisit without a sense of discomfort. Burst Apart retains all the band’s compositional prowess and aural splendor, but it’s also a record we can truly celebrate. Granted, it’s definitely not sugar-coated optimism, but more an apology for doing what you have to do to get by. And with that sense of moving on comes at least a faint ray of hope for the life we have left.
Wow. Great review. Much better than what I've been recently over the last year on here. I listened to this record today, and I agree with you about what moving past what he dealt with before in Hospice. I find this record, however, to be hauntingly depressing and beautiful. He doesn't hint at the emotion or tip-toe around it like some artists tend to do, but instead he plunges your head into the cold bucket full of ice, and the effect is that as your inside, without breath and surrounded by cold and the muffled silence of the water, you realize its not all that bad.