Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Album Retrospective: The Antlers - Burst Apart

Album Rating: A-
The Antlers Hospice was an absolutely gigantic, emotional and morbid conceptual love story: it had a shocking premise (a cancer patient following in love with her doctor,) detailed and disturbing lyrics, quality and occasional epic songs ("Wake, "Two, "Bear, "Epilogue,") a very original sound, and a ending that was beyond sad.  Hospice was a "concept" album that may have been the most original of all time because it told a story that was so heartbreaking, emotional, and unique that it could only be successfully told one time.  The storyline, instrumentation, quality of song and lyrics on Hospice made it a once in a lifetime story of "love at any costs."

This is why I was extremely scared that The Antlers would try to make a follow up to an album that was not meant to have a follow up.  I was frightened that they would try to replicate the storyline, emotion, sound and lyrics on Hospice and fail miserably.  But from the first song on Burst Apart, it is crystal clear that it is going to be a completely different album from Hospice and isn't going to be anything close to a sequel.  "I Don't Want Love" is a powerful opening statement: it presents us with undistorted vocals, a huge chorus, swirling instrumentation, and Peter Silberman smoothly singing how he "doesn't want love" or even the idea of love.  On Hospice, Silberman's character would have died for his love, he stayed besides her side until she died, and he would have not known how to live without her.  On "I Don't Want Love" he doesn't even want the idea of love in his life and he seems to be questioning the existence of love.  It is clear from the opening track of Burst Apart that it is not going to be the sequel to Hospice, but it is going to be just as great and important in its own unique way.

Another thing that separates Burst Apart from any of The Antlers previous work is The Antlers new sound.  The sound and the atmospheres that Burst Apart create are an absolutely beautiful combination of the "dancy feel" of Radiohead's The King of Limbs, the guitar work and laid back atmospheres of Jeff Buckley's Grace, and the stoner feel of Deerhunter's Microcastle.  Just about every song on Burst Apart has a different sound and atmosphere: "Parentheses" sounds like a more aggressive, coherent, and catchy version of Radiohead's "Like Spinning Plates," "Rolled Together" sounds like a modernized and laid back version of Jeff Buckley's "Mojo Pin," "Every Night My Teeth Are Falling Out" sounds like a spooky and more aggressive version of an old school Zombies song, "Corsicana" is an absolutely gorgeous piano driven song, and "Putting The Dog To Sleep" is a perfect combination of the bands jazz, electronica, indie, and rock influences. The Antlers present a completely unique and original sound on Burst Apart that not only separates them from the lo-fi and sad sounds of Hospice, but from most of the one trick ponies in the indie rock scene today.

It is also important to point out that the quality of songwriting and the quality of song on Burst Apart are just as impressive as they were on Hospice.  Without taking the conceptual route of Hospice, the lyrics on Burst Apart are still just as breathtaking, clever, and even romantic: the opening verse of "I Don't Want Love" paints a disturbing picture of a relationship gone bad, the emotion of all of the lyrics on "Putting The Dog to Sleep" make it the best song The Antlers have ever written, the desperation of the last verse of the beautiful "Corsicana" might make it the most effective love song the band has written, and the laid back lyrics of "Hounds" make it an absolutely stunning song.  Even though some critics would consider the lyrics on Burst Apart simple, disturbing, and even at times forced, they match the flow and the swirling and unique instrumentation of the album so well it is easy to say that they are at least equal in quality to the lyrics on Hospice.  The album also features tons of quality songs: "Putting The Dog to Sleep" might be one of the best songs of the decade so far, "Corsicana" might also end up being one of the top ten songs of 2011, "Hounds" is also one of the albums strongest points, "I Don't Want Love" is the perfect opener for the album, "Parentheses" is the best song Radiohead never made, "Rolled Together" is the albums best combination of accessibility and experimentation, and "Every Night My Teeth Are Falling Out" is the albums most rocking and catchy song.

Instead of ruining the once and a lifetime conceptual love story that was Hospice, The Antlers decided to follow that album by creating a beautiful and atmospheric album that is just as much of a masterpiece as Hospice. With their last two albums, The Antlers have proven that they can create near classic albums out of totally opposite sounds, just about totally opposite concepts, and can combine just about any kind of influences that they desire to.  It is easy to call The Antlers the next Radiohead, the next Deerhunter, or even the next great indie band.  But with Burst Apart they proved they can create a near classic album on whatever the hell terms they want to create the album on.  And that is such a positive and unique quality that I'm not sure if you can compare The Antlers to anyone in indie rock, but I am sure that The Antlers are finally "bursting apart" from just about any other band that someone might say is their competition.


1. I Don’t Want Love
2. French Exit
3. Parentheses
4. No Widows
5. Rolled Together
6. Every Night My Teeth Are Falling Out
7. Tiptoe
8. Hounds
9. Corsicana
10. Putting the Dog to Sleep

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