In 2009, The Antlers rose from relative obscurity with the release of their chilling album, Hospice. The self-released album forced listeners to invest in understanding sorrow and participate in the idea of experiencing loss. The album required us to endure a certain process of emotional digestion and repeat-listen to really understand the purpose of the frontman Peter Silberman’s story-telling. Upon first listen, its tough not to explore the literal meaning behind the music. But the truth is that Silberman wanted listeners to take away from Hospice the emotion of his singular experience to better understand our own. The album was an incredible example of how relating music to our personal experience can be an immensely important yet exhausting effort.
The band’s fourth album, Burst Apart, is a solid follow-up. Here we lose the element of personal account and perhaps part of the emotional appeal that kept us coming back to Hospice when we needed it most. But with that loss, we gain a complex album that manipulates a variety of styles and feels like a more representative and fulsome collection of the band’s versatility. Much of Burst Apart represents a type of experiment for the band. However, at the core of each track Silberman’s haunting falsetto and delicate lyrics can be still be found, hidden in the background.
In “I Don’t Want Love”, Silberman seems to ask for a sobering experience and break from an emotional relationship that hasn’t turned out as expected. “French Exit” and “No Window”, however, are both ambient in nature and make for a different feel than what we expected out of the album. By the third track we’ve forgotten about Hospice and are getting comfortable the unfamiliarity territory. “Every Night My Teeth Falling Out” is, in our view, one of the highlights of the album. It’s here that the band proves that they could write and record a solid rock album.
The last three tracks, “Hounds”, “Corsicana” and “Putting the Dog to Sleep” are the most reminiscent of previous efforts. In “Corsicana”, Silberman sings of a love lost: “We lost our chance to run / Now the door’s too hot to touch / We should hold our breath with mouths together now.” The track really contrasts “I Don’t Want to Love” in the sense that Silberman is clinging to an experience or relationship rather than writing it off all together. The transition into the last several tracks, each slower and more focused on Silberman’s vocals, represents his perspective coming full-circle. In “Putting the Dog to Sleep”, he pleads for honesty in a relationship and uses vivid imagery to explain neglect: “Well my trust in you / Is a dog with a broken leg / Tendons too torn to beg / For you to let me back in.”
Burst Apart represents a meaningful departure for the band as the album is less about one single, deeply personal, experience (i.e. Hospice). Furthermore, the narrative element of previous albums is replaced with cohesive tracks that are well-timed and organized. The truth is, we don’t need to experience a sort of catharsis to find meaning in The Antlers. Hospice revealed a traumatic story and desperate plea for help, revival, and, ultimately, a return to how things used to be. Burst Apart reveals a maturing band with the potential to perform outside the realm of one specific style. All in all, we applaud the album and appreciate the sense of variety and experimentation the band brings with it.