The Antlers: Hospice

Photo: Ben Ritter

Confronting death, Hospice shows the full-length album is as alive as ever.

The Antlers


Label: French Kiss
US Release Date: 2009-08-18
UK Release Date: 2009-08-18

Over the past six months, bloggers have been falling over their online personas praising the depth of feeling and haunting singularity of vision that characterizes Hospice, the first major offering from Brooklyn's the Antlers. If you haven't heard about it yet, you must have a real job or a life. Good for you.

The story of the album's genesis -- how it's the product of months of self-imposed isolation on the part of young songwriter Peter Silberman, brought on by a soul-shaking personal event that he has only referred to obliquely in interviews -- has been told many times, in as much detail as Silberman will allow. It's not surprising that journalists and readers are so interested in hearing it; Hospice is the kind of staggering work that doesn't just win fans, but changes lives. Silberman's sorrow-soaked narrative pulsates with genuine, complex human pain. He cites In the Aeroplane Over the Sea as a major influence, and he's one of the few Neutral Milk Hotel acolytes to produce something that deserves to be mentioned in the same sentence with that seminal work.

Silberman has also said Hospice is about "the extent to which guilt can lead us to betray ourselves." The thematic hook is the strained relationship between an abusive dying person and his (or her?) steadfast lover/caretaker, who together are locked in a heart-twisting back-and-forth that lasts until the final curtain falls. Silberman's lyrics abstract the story in typical young-poet fashion, but he has a knack for turning a wicked phrase from time to time ("All the while I'll know we're fucked and not getting unfucked soon" from "Bear" is a particularly memorable moment).

Silberman originally wrote these songs in his bedroom, later recruiting guest musicians Darby Cicci (guitars and synths) and Michael Lerner (drums) to help him flesh out the sound. Cicci and Lerner eventually became full-on members of the Antlers, and it's easy to see why. Cicci's atmospherics range from hauntingly beautiful to kind of nauseating, and are essential to the Antlers' queasily cinematic sound. Lerner's room-shaking drums anchor a band that otherwise might float off into the ether.

It's ballsy, to say the least, to make a concept album in the digital download age. Hospice throws a couple of bones to the cherry-picking downloader -- the aforementioned "Bear" has a rollicking chorus that could almost be mistaken for upbeat; after a languorous opening, "Sylvia" explodes into a Walkmen-esque indie anthem. But these songs are stripped of some of their power when they stand alone, which is an indication of the album's success. Hospice is a fully-realized and fully-functional concept album, and, get this: it was produced by and for members of a generation who, according to know-it-all marketing types, would rather throw their PlayStation3's into a river than listen to (egads!) a WHOLE album. Hospice is evidence that the art form (unlike the unlucky character on this articulation of it) isn't on its deathbed.







How Hawkwind's First Voyage Helped Spearhead Space Rock 50 Years Ago

Hawkwind's 1970 debut opened the door to rock's collective sonic possibilities, something that connected them tenuously to punk, dance, metal, and noise.


Graphic Novel 'Cuisine Chinoise' Is a Feast for the Eyes and the Mind

Lush art and dark, cryptic fables permeate Zao Dao's stunning graphic novel, Cuisine Chinoise.


Alanis Morissette's 'Such Pretty Forks in the Road' Is a Quest for Validation

Alanis Morissette's Such Pretty Forks in the Road is an exposition of dolorous truths, revelatory in its unmasking of imperfection.


Hip-Hop's Raashan Ahmad Talks About His Place in 'The Sun'

On his latest work,The Sun, rapper Raashan Ahmad brings his irrepressible charisma to this set of Afrobeat-influenced hip-hop.


Between the Buried and Me's Baby Pictures Star in 'The Silent Circus'

The Silent Circus shows Between the Buried and Me developing towards the progressive metal titans they would eventually become.


The Chad Taylor Trio Get Funky and Fiery on 'The Daily Biological'

A nimble jazz power trio of drums, tenor sax, and piano, the Chad Taylor Trio is free and fun, funky and fiery on The Daily Biological.


Vistas' 'Everything Changes in the End' Is Catchy and Fun Guitar Rock

Vistas' debut, Everything Changes in the End, features bright rock music that pulls influences from power-pop and indie rock.


In Amy Seimetz's 'She Dies Tomorrow', Death Is Neither Delusion Nor Denial

Amy Seimetz's She Dies Tomorrow makes one wonder, is it possible for cinema to authentically convey a dream, or like death, is it something beyond our control?


Maestro Gamin and Aeks' Latest EP Delivers LA Hip-Hop Cool (premiere + interview)

MaestroAeks' Sapodigo is a collection of blunted hip-hop tunes, sometimes nudging a fulsome boom-bap and other times trading on laid-back, mellow grooves.


Soul Blues' Sugaray Rayford Delivers a "Homemade Disaster" (premiere + Q&A)

What was going to be a year of touring and building Sugaray Rayford's fanbase has turned into a year of staying home and reaching out to fans from his Arizona home.


Titan to Tachyons' Experimental Heaviness on Full Display via "Earth, And Squidless" (premiere)

Featuring current members of Imperial Triumphant, Titan to Tachyons break incredible new ground in the realm of heavy music.


Jerry Leger Teams with Moby Grape's Don Stevenson for "Halfway 'Til Gone" (premiere)

Reminiscent of Lee Hazlewood and the Everly Brothers, Jerry Leger's "Halfway 'Til Gone" is available on all streaming platforms on 6 August.


The 10 Best Experimental Albums of 2015

Music of all kinds are tending toward a consciously experimental direction. Maybe we’re finally getting through to them.


John Lewis, C.T. Vivian, and Their Fellow Freedom Riders Are Celebrated in 'Breach of Peace'

John Lewis and C.T. Vivian were titans of the Civil Rights struggle, but they are far from alone in fighting for change. Eric Etheridge's masterful then-and-now project, Breach of Peace, tells the stories of many of the Freedom Riders.


Unwed Sailor's Johnathon Ford Discusses Their New Album and 20 Years of Music

Johnathon Ford has overseen Unwed Sailor for more than 20 years. The veteran musician shows no sign of letting up with the latest opus, Look Alive.

Jedd Beaudoin

Jazz Trombonist Nick Finzer Creates a 'Cast of Characters'

Jazz trombonist Nick Finzer shines with his compositions on this mainstream jazz sextet release, Cast of Characters.


Datura4 Travel Blues-Rock Roads on 'West Coast Highway Cosmic'

Australian rockers Datura4 take inspiration from the never-ending coastal landscape of their home country to deliver a well-grounded album between blues, hard rock, and psychedelia.

Collapse Expand Reviews

Collapse Expand Features
PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.