I came across The Antlers a few years ago, most likely in one of the amazing Blalock’s Indie Rock Playlists. The first song I heard by them was the bittersweet “Two,” which even out of context is an emotionally charged masterpiece. In context, it’s a piece of the puzzle that forms The Antlers’ previous album, Hospice, a critically lauded metaphorical work involving a hospice worker, a terminally ill child, and an abusive past said to be inspired by a dying friend. The new Antlers album, Burst Apart, is less conceptual, and more of a broad stroke of life put into music.
The album begins with “I Don’t Want Love,” a catchy, almost upbeat pop song that simultaneously denounces the emotions that those songs usually revolve around, sort of a tongue-in-cheek way to talk about “hollow sex.” The next song, “French Exit,” follows suit; about the misplaced motivations and assumptions of lovers, it’s a milieu of synths with a staccato guitar riff and could almost be mistaken for a new Guster song. “Parentheses” takes Burst Apart in an entirely different sonic direction, with its paranoid atmosphere and dubstep-esque bass, it’s a no-regrets breakup song. “No Widows” is haunting and reflective with driving bass swells and plaintive synths, a low-key meditation one’s legacy, one’s accomplishments in life, or lack thereof: “If I never get back home / There’s no garden overgrown / No widows in the walls / No widows left at all.”
“Rolled Together” breaks the clouds of gloom, opening with an organ that recalls a lively church sermon, delivered momentarily in the form of frontman Peter Silberman’s heavenly falsetto gloriously soaring above the congregation. “Every Night My Teeth Are Falling Out” is one of the more spirited, memorable songs on the album, ostensibly about a guy having trouble giving up on the physical side of a relationship. “Tiptoe” is an instrumental that does well in conveying the the atmosphere of a place you might actually have to tiptoe through for one reason or another, also acting as an intermission of sorts. “Hounds” is an ethereal, reverb-laden song that brings to mind the shimmering guitar of Jeff Buckley’s “Hallelujah” cover, just as Silberman’s sweet falsetto recalls Buckley’s ghost. The penultimate track, “Corsicana” is as gorgeous and delicate a song as I’ve ever heard. The frailty and unadulterated emotion of the guitar riff and the lofty ambience that blankets it, overlaid with Silberman’s falsetto is enough to cause a religious experience. Although “Corsicana” might’ve been a more fitting ending for the album, Burst Apart closes with “Putting the Dog to Sleep,” a title that’s more depressing than the actual song, thankfully. According to Silberman, it’s a song “about moving on, forgiving without forgetting.” It’s also a retro-tinged, doo-wop flavored affair, catchy and re-playable as any on this album.
Burst Apart is a different beast entirely from Hospice, yet retains many of the characteristics that made it such a classic. It’s made up of intermittent moments of utter beauty, seduction, despondence, love, hope, sorrow, and loss of control, perfectly set to tune. Few bands can convey as much and as pure emotion as the three members of The Antlers. Burst Apart is a diverse album, both musically and lyrically. The tone of the lyrics starts out cold, and gradually warms as the record plays on, building from a song called “I Don’t Want Love” to one of relational reconciliation. This is an album you can listen to from cover to cover and enjoy every second. There are plenty of musical moments here that you’d be hard pressed to forget.