Tuesday, May 10, 2011

First Impressions: Burst Apart by The Antlers

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A band releases a work that becomes an unexpected hit, devoutly loved by fans. The predicament: what to do next? After 2009’s
Hospice, an album that made many critics’ “best of” lists, The Antler faced this problem. Their answer is Burst Apart, a strong, confident set that makes no attempt at the thematic unity of the previous album, but maintains and builds on the signature elements of their sound.

Burst Apart is not near as heavy as Hospice. Given that the latter was a paean to a dying friend, coming up with something lighter wouldn’t seem to be a challenge! There’s still a sense of drama and melancholy. Part of that is due to lead singer Peter Silberman’s voice, a gorgeous falsetto. It can sound sad even on an upbeat song like “French Exit” with its chipper, calypso-inflected guitar. It can sound absolutely aching, as in his wistful “Oo-oo-oo-oo-oohs” in “Hounds” or in his plaintive cry on “Parentheses.”

Lighter is relative: the lyrics aren’t always perky. Just consider these lines from “I Don’t Want Love,” which otherwise feels fairly warm: “So if I see you again desperate and stoned, keep your prison locked up, and I will leave my gun at home.” “Widows” has similar feel. The gloom, however, is less than on Hospice where it could be oppressive. Burst Apart is almost upbeat in places, notably on “Every Night My Teeth Are Falling Out” and “French Exit.”

This band has a huge sound for a three-piece. I’d love to see how they attempt to recreate their sound in a live setting. (“Sequencers, ahoy!” I suspect.) To their regular mix, they’ve added interesting sounds, such as the banjo on “Every Night My Teeth Are Falling Out.” In short, they’re continuing to grow and explore – very successfully, if this album is any indication.

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