The Antlers – Hospice

April 15th, 2010 by WLOY Staff

Most of my favorite records are what I would call “growers.” While it’s easy to write off records on the first listen, it can be much more gratifying to offer second chances. Sometimes, it doesn’t catch on for a while. Even my favorite record of all time, In the Aeroplane Over the Sea *ahem*, sat gathering dust for years before I gave it a few more tries and began to realize its utter brilliance. I’ll admit, while the Bon Iver comparison surely helped, it was really the graceful, interesting album art that made me want to hear The Antlers’ Hospice. When I sat down and finally gave it a listen, I was sorely disappointed. Hospice was boring. Sad?- sure. But engaging?- not even close. “Wake” dragged on. “Kettering” was a bore. Half the songs felt skippable. As time went on I realized just how wrong I was. It took an embarrassing five or so more listens before I began to feel like an idiot for not realizing the genius and finesse that is embodied with Hopsice.

“Prologue” and “Kettering” set the mood very well. This is a soft, quiet record with copious loneliness. The vocals are almost whispered at times, like Hopsice is begging you to concentrate, to listen just a little bit closer. The lyrics reflect this somber mood very well, resulting in one of Hospice‘s greater strengths.

I could write for hours about the complex, intense, and sorrowful lyrics that comprise Hopsice. I’ll do you all a favor and not delve too deeply. To put it simply, Hospice is a heartbroken and despondent record. Sadness hasn’t been done so well since Justin Vernon took a little trip to the woods. Peter Silberman of The Antlers wrote Hopsice as a concept album, though it is very loose. The basic theme resides with a cancer patient and the caretaker. That doesn’t stop Silberman from straying towards even more gloomy subjects, like abortion, where he coos, “There’s a bear inside your stomach/The cub’s been kicking from within/He’s loud, though without vocal chords/We’ll put an end to him/We’ll make all the right appointments/No one ever has to know.” Silberman’s voice is a perfect fit for the lonely, forsaken anthems.

You haven’t heard rich, abundant layers and textures until you hear The Antlers. Mostly a one-man project, Peter Silberman’s creation is lively, to say the least. Every last sound and instrument resonates magnificently with its own purpose, its own function. It sounds as if Silberman slaved over Hospice for years, perfecting every minute detail while still managing to make it sound somewhat organic at the same time.

Sound too good to be true? Well, in some ways it is. As much as this record has grown on me, it’s still hard for me to appreciate some aspects of Hospice. As far as individual songs go, I can’t find a single fault for some with and others I would be fine if I never hear again. The mood and the concept allow for a certain amount of continuity, and Hospice is best listened to as a whole, but that doesn”t stop a few duds from bringing down the experience. “Prologue,” “Atrophy,” and “Wake” I find to be immediately forgettable. Others, like the lovely harmonies of “Two,” the depressing storytelling of “Bear,” and the rich atmosphere that “Shiva” creates (well, the whole album, for that matter), are pretty astounding and are incredibly compelling.

In conclusion, I have a request:  Give Hospice a listen. Don’t judge the album by the cover, as the old adage goes (well, pretty close anyway). Refrain from even judging this after a few listens. Let this sad, indie record into your ears, and give it some time to simmer.

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Grade: 91% A

Download on The Antlers - Hospice

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