Monday, June 7, 2010
Ever since I sort of grew out of Death Cab for Cutie, indie has been a difficult genre for me. To me, it's often difficult to hear what the "indie" tag adds to genres such as indie pop and indie rock, other than a snobbish sense of self-importance. Indie bands that live up to the hype proliferated by their coffee-drinking fanbases are few and far between.
Enter The Antlers. Essentially a one man project, the story behind "Hospice" bears a certain resemblance to Bon Iver's "For Emma Forever Ago", in which Peter Silberman coops himself up in his New York apartment for a year to write it. "Hospice" in itself is a different story altogether, one of the painful loss of a loved one to bone cancer as the narrator watches and cares for her.
So while the story behind "Hospice", and the story related by it, are enough to grab an indie skeptic's attention, it's the immediate aura of wintery loneliness, strange optimism, and aching heartbreak that defines this gem of an album. The ambient "Prologue" bleeds into the simmering "Kettering" where we are met by Silberman's soulful croon, perhaps the most intriguing part of The Antlers' music. Muted pianos and delicate electronics combine with his heartfelt verses to do exactly what an album with this kind of harrowing story should do-They pull the listener into the mood of the album and never let go.
"Hospice" also has the kind of consistency that separates average albums from genre landmarks like "Transatlanticism" and "For Emma". The strange bounciness of "Bear" works perfectly next to the despair of "Atrophy". "Two" features a simple lyrical device that makes it astoundingly catchy as it meanders through several clever paradigm shifts musically. And the breathtaking "Wake" utilizes Silberman's voice to its fullest effect, with a full choir of dubbed-over harmonies overtaking the music to create a satisfying climax to his heartfelt tale.
The Antlers have created a near-perfect work of art with "Hospice", and yet somehow it's completely devoid of the kind of grandeur that seems to occupy contemporaries such as The Decemberists and Manchester Orchestra. And that 's what sets it apart. The honesty and bare-faced simplicity of the music makes it all the more affecting. And what an affecting musical adventure it is.
Essentially the opening track, this gives you a good idea of what to expect from the rest of the album. Silberman's voice is present in all it's crooning beauty, and the music reluctantly climaxes after the halfway point to fully realize the trademark mood of the rest of the album.
Also, you can stream the entire album for free here (quick, easy, free, and totally worth it sign-up required).