Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Album Review: The Antlers - Hospice

Today, Scott Goldstein tells us about an album I have been curious about myself for quite some time. His thoughtful review and beautiful descriptions have convinced me to head to the record store ASAP.

The Antlers released their latest album, Hospice, on June 23, 2009. Hospice weaves a bitter narrative about a Hospice worker and his grief stricken relationship with a terminally-ill bone cancer patient named Sylvia.

Hospice, like For Emma, Forever Ago (Bon Iver), was written by a lone artist secluded from the world. Frontman Peter Silberman moved to New York in 2006, cut off all ties from family and friends, and started recording the album in 2007 that was intended as an elegy for his disappearance. The result, two years later, is Hospice, an intensely sad album that explores tragedy and loss.

Hospice is an elegant record made brilliant because of the way the Antlers have mastered their sounds. The album opens with the instrumental "Prologue," which has piano symphonied with swelling ethereal noise, whose constant repetition recalls life support. "Kettering" takes the listener straight to the death bed of the girl, a place of isolation where our hospice worker is so absorbed caring for his patient that the rest of the world has been muffled into a hollow, eerie murmur.

The beautiful tragedy takes a brief detour in what is one of their best songs on the album, "Bear." In "Bear," Silberman tells the tale of a young couple who decide to have an abortion. Metaphor-filled, Bear describes the remorse they feel, yet the Antlers exploration of regret sounds interestingly original; none of that screaming crap, but rather an eerily beautiful sound that could give nightmares in its calmness. However, Bear does not come across political, rather it provides a thoughtful break from one depressing story, and brings you into another. Like many of the songs on the album, Bear immerses you into its own dreary world and then explodes into its chorus before receding back to the lump-in-throat alternative Universe that is Hospice. This pattern occurs in many of the songs on Hospice, and the little/soft-to-big and back to little refrain brings to mind a flickering candle, or a dying star.

The introductions to the songs in Hospice are a huge reason why the story of the album makes its point. The intros pull you into their dreary world magnificently and originally. "Sylvia" begins with a striking banging of drums evoking being told some terrible news, while "Prologue" captures the repetition of a life support machine.

The true brilliance of Hospice lies in its simplicity, the story feels so right because it is so simple. The Antlers are only three guys; Silberman, drummer Michael Lerner and Darby Cicci, and they bring you into their world without overdoing it. Perhaps this is because most of the album was done without a label. The lyrics, too, are clever and thoughtful, as Silberman comes across looking like a careful wordsmith.

Hospice is so compelling because of the strikingly intimate look at the psychology of our sufferer. This is attained because of the emotion felt by Silberman during his time in New york. In an interview I saw, Silberman explains that, “The record came about during the ending of one period of my life and the beginning of another…I’d say the record is semi-autobiographical. The story was written alongside the recording which took about a year and a half. It took a long time to make it make sense…” Merely hearing the pain in his choked-up voice shows the emotion Silberman feels talking about the album that is so much about himself. His pain makes the album so brilliant, it enables him to describe pain with astounding accuracy.

The best songs on the album are probably Bear, Two, Shiva, and Sylvia. Silberman and company have captured tragedy and loss, and paint the world in Hospice in a way that you are so drawn in that listening to the album almost makes you feel ashamed for peering down into the world of our sufferer, for seeing him get broken time and time again in the grand performance that is the world of Hospice.

-Scott Goldstein


  1. Do you remember the first time you heard "What Sarah Said" from Plans? Well, I just listened to "Two" and it literally took my breath away, I don't know if that's a fair comparison but it stunned me. Thanks for finding my fav new band.

  2. I have been curious about these guys myself for a while. This will now be the next album I buy.

  3. Anonymous11/2/10 15:47

    Hey Casey,
    I'm glad I could help you out with finding a band you liked. I just gave What Sarah Said a listen and you helped me out too, it's a great song!