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By Nik Williams on 29.9.2023

Album Review: The Antlers ‘Hospice’

Concept albums make things harder. Not only does the album have to operate as if an unconnected arrangement of songs for casual listening, but also the narrative needs to emerge from the seemingly disparate anthology as fully formed as the songs themselves. It is into this complex subgenre that The Antlers have positioned their second album, Hospice. Peter Silberman started The Antlers as a solo-bedroom recorded project, only recently taking on two permanent members. Once listening to this album it is understandable how it originated from one person. Tracing the story of a terminally ill child (hence the album name) it is an extremely personal tract, each song examining through tiny details of the carefully constructed scenes, the complexities of sorrow and suffering. The narrative function of the album enables an intimacy with Silberman’s lyrics; the same way readers consume literary characters into themselves, projecting their own semblances onto those on the page.

The success of this album is not wholly in the emotive punch of the lyrics and of the tale, but how it is woven into the songs. Concept albums take on two genres: narrative and music, one cannot come in spite of the other; their functioning needs to be dependant and Hospice does not fail there. As Silberman’s voice whispers and rises it takes on a haunting simplicity that allows the instrumentation to fold in layers of dissonance, reverb, piano and even blasts of brass; the sound grows and wilts, spreading itself over the emotive lyrics to present a provocative album of coupled complexity and emotional investment. The sound is never pinned to a certain genre; each song struggles against the suppositions of any categorisation. It bounds around; sounds weaving themselves together seamlessly and as a result this album’s sound, if not wholly original, is a finely developed art of subversion and reimagining.

A stand out track is ‘Kettering’ a haunting piano led song that builds and builds until it collapses on itself after the line “I didn’t believe that when they told me that there was no saving you” as if the emotion of the lyrics broke into the fabric of the actual song and, as a result, the song break down into a reverb laden sob mimicking the words of the narrator. This is perfect example of how the narrative doesn’t sacrifice the music but in fact reinforces it. The emotion of the story lies not in the provocative lyrics, or in the music, but on the bridge, or in the relationship between both.

Hospice is an album that lingers, but in the same way a memory does, and although it may not bring smiles, you really cannot dance to it, it is a powerful series of songs that doesn’t settle solely for entertainment; it operates as an examination of human nature and the inevitable aspects of life. When that is a mission statement, a band such as The Antlers should be given as much support as possible. Although we all dread it, in this instance Hospice is somewhere we should all visit; I don’t think I want to leave.

Comments

  • Brilliant review Nik, really well written and interesting to read. Can’t wait to see more 🙂

    By Vickie on 3.10.2023

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