Tuesday, 31 January 2012

The Antlers - Hospice

The Antlers initially released Hospice in March 2009. When they eventually signed to label Frenchkiss Records in August that year, they put out the remastered version of Hospice. Originally a Peter Silberman solo project, The Antlers became a fully fledged band when keyboardist Darby Cici and drummer Michael Lerner were welcomed in. Hospice also featured bass work by Justin Stivers on this album. Hospice tells a depressing story in first person narrative. It's spoken in the point of view of a Hospice worker. The lyrical representations are obscured by Peters ability to silently spark rumours about the people and factual lyricism within Hospice. Analogies are used to space out the conceptual idea. In this world, the only way forward is going backwards. That's the theme for this album and the tracks follow a broad story line, each descending on different tales and separate events. The album eventually ends up in pure delusion and sadness that the listener should be able to feel the narrators passion and loss.

The three minute opening track, 'Prologue', begins with swaying soundscapes and industrial-esque sounds which create a vivid atmosphere and dream world. I compare it to an episode of Doctor Who, with the tardis entering an alternative hazy reality. Where all hope is lost and only failure shines. The vocal harmonies send shivers down my spine and the pure energy shows a strong adrenaline rush from the listener.

'Kettering' has a defining piano riff which sounds sparse and distorted. The lo-fi style is present and Peter's vocals sound both reverberated and clear. The lyrical content is incredibly dense and Peter sings it perfectly. He has an extensive vocal range and this song shows the listener what to expect. The lyrics are  interpreted differently which is something I personally like about this album. One line hits me every time, "They kept you sleeping and even, and I didn't believe them when they called you a hurricane thunderclap". It's all well and good writing a personal meaningful song without any explanation to the listener, but writing something with a specific amount of imagery just kills me.

Sylvia Plath was an American novelist who wrote some amazing poetry and short stories including the aged classic 'The Bell Jar'. I've read the story behind her death many times. The thing that always stuck out was her ability to control her personal depression with care for her children. She separated herself from her children by putting damp cloths and towels under the door so the children wouldn't be effected in Plath's suicide. To me, this shows compassion and humanity within Plath who had severe depression leading up to her death in 1963. Her son Nicholas Hughes committed suicide in March 2009, the same month Hospice was initially released. You may ask how Plath's story fits into Hospice. I cannot answer any questions because I don't know and Peter doesn't express details. So the song 'Sylvia' starts with distortion and sparse shoegaze like sounds. it's not long before the dynamics kick in. The chorus is elevated with further distortion and a thick drum beat. Peter's verse gives the impression of sadness and loss. The whole theory behind the song is undisputed. it's something I admire.

It takes superb musicianship to compose beautiful instrumentals which mixes indie rock with dream pop and noise. The three part 'Atrophy' begins with a very basic, shortened piano riff placed above the distorted soundscapes. Peter's vocals are again cur to perfection and have a sense of urgency. Drumming picks up as does the cleanliness of the guitar and piano. Eventually the track fades into a messy section of noise which reminds me of waterfalls and rivers. The painfully beautiful synthesizer melodies cut through me like a blunt knife as the track trickles on with sparse high pitched effects which could be passed off as a Boredoms instrumental. The track then fades out and incomes the simplistic acoustic guitar. The progression is common for this kind of 'hangover' material. Peter sings clearly as his vocals sound empty. It's just Peter and his guitar in an empty hallway. Purely beautiful and the seven minutes which just passed are lost in time.

'Twinkle Twinkle Little Star' makes an appearance on the enigmatic track 'Bear'. Where many indie based bands focus on teenage angst and popularity with girls and money. Peter sings about pregnancy and exclusion with relationships and their effect between personal lives. it explains how the idea of a child changes a person almost instantly. Peter's hauntingly stylistic vocals sound harsh and desperate as his story surrounds the effects of abortion. Some have interpreted this song differently to others. With focus on the word 'bear', listeners can either imagine it meaning a baby or the spread of cancer. I say it's about about abortion due to the opening similarities to the aforementioned Twinkle Twinkle. The track has a very climatic ending with high pitched vocals and a repeated chorus. The lyrics aren't necessarily deep, but they're very imaginative. The idea of representing a cub in the lyrics  shows deep understanding of human nature and the abusive attitudes young adults have towards the treatment of an unborn child.

Floating around the world of Hospice is the atmospheric 'Thirteen'. With delicate reverb effects and dream pop rhythms, the track shows immense ability to create a sound which represents depression perfectly. The twinkling guitar stands out and fades as the next 'act' begins. The final minute features vocals by NYC folk artist Sharon Van Etten. Her high pitched vocals sounds beautiful over the sparse backdrop of reverb

Simplistic mandolin chords are used on  the monotonous 'Two'. The mandolin has been heavily effected to give it a friendly and full sound. The song follows a simple pattern and the vocals stand strong with perfect flow. The lyrics follow several constructed reasons of illness. Some people notice the ideas of anorexia, some the comparisons to bipolar. Overall the track is about the patient dying of cancer. That's the consensus of the whole album and you shouldn't be construed in interpretations. The whole concept is based around the marriage to a cancer patient and her eventual failure to fight the cancer leading to her terrible death. The instrumental is very simple and the guitar stands out as something completely different to me. The bass is strong and comes in at the right time, as does the Phil Spector-esque drum beat. It describes anger and indifferent opinions between both patient and carer, it's one hell of a read. Poetry.

'Shiva' has a lovely keyboard riff which sounds extremely sensitive and eerie. The track is much slower compared to the previous few, it's also far quieter in terms of style. The light acoustic guitar works well with Peter's desperate lyrics. With the lyrics representing the eventual death of the patient. The way the lyrics are set out leave the listener feeling lost and alone and unable to accurately explain the song. I personally think the carer is grieving over his loss. Staring at the place she once rested, imagining it as a coffin. The narrator shows great emotion as the song sways between the patients being taking control of the narrator, almost as if they have switched positions.

The dark and twisted 'Wake' opens with a small vocal segment which plays as the underlining back drop for the eventual piano and painfully beautiful lyrics. To me, this song is like a landfill of emotions which have been dumped on the narrator from his patients death. She pay be gone, but her problems and affects are still present with the carer who has to live on. The song is a slow ride striking your emotions. It takes a while to fully grasp the intended details and lyrical analogies, but as time passes you start to feel the connection between reality and the fantasy. Where the listener is exposed to a story of death, the initial background is based on Peter's relationship with a previous girlfriend. He has been in isolation and the only way to express his feelings was to use an analogy as constructed as this. it's a wonderful track and it plays with your emotions. The final refrain stands strong as Peter screams, "Don't ever let anyone tell you you deserve that".

As the album draws to a close, I cant help but feel slightly lonely. The depressive first half leaves me disastrously emotional over the spectacular compositions and beautiful lyrics. The ending few tracks are slightly uplifting as the narrator copes with the death. The final track 'Epilogue' used reverb on the vocals and takes the chorus down a notch with calm vocals and slower timing. You begin to see the realism behind Peter's lyrics. The idea of having a loving relationship for so long, then for it to be broken up and you're all alone, it's unnerving and I never want to feel the pain of dramatic loss. Peter's falsetto rings hard in my ears as the track closes with simplistic guitar and eerie vocals which cap off the album perfectly. 


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