The Antlers - Hospice, Album Review

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CD and LP giveaway, details at end of review

The Antlers
Hospice

Hospicecover

Frenchkiss
out August 18th

90/100
[Rating Scale]

404

[rating:90/100]
There are few albums that give me shivers. Few albums that really get me at my core – real albums, honest albums, painfully personal albums. Even rarer are those records that continue to do so on subsequent listens, hitting me hard each time I hear its story unfold. The Antlers’ Hospice does it like few I can remember.

The album is the product of Peter Silberman’s two year isolation in New York City, a seemingly foreign concept that is much closer to reality than many of the New York City myths you hear on records. Emerging from his self imposed exile, he joined with Michael Lerner and Darby Cicci to form the current incarnation of The Antlers, recording two EPs that would eventually merge to become Hospice. The album tells the story of a man forced to watch his loved one struggle with - and eventually succumb to - bone cancer, and it tells it eloquently, brutally, breath-takingly.

If, as Ben Gibbard proclaims, “Love is watching someone die,” then Hospice is a love album. And, unconventionally, it is. The album is remarkably multi-dimensional, delving into the perspectives and moods of both lovers involved – the love, the hate, the fear, the denial, the dependence. It is the sinking stomach of a desperate hope fading. It is the pain of being a helpless bystander as invisible Death works his slow knife. It is the phantom limb left by a loved one.

The album begins with an instrumental track, entitled “Prologue,” that evokes William Basinski’s Disintegration Loops, an experimental series that chronicles the gradual demise of old magnetic tapes. It is no coincidence that much of Hospice evokes that same sonic experiment – the record is a study in degradation over time.

But although the album is sonically fascinating, it is the storyline that carries the record. Reading the album’s liner notes – arranged as if a series of short stories – opens the door to a depressive fog. I won’t even bother trying to do it justice here. The story is beautifully written and perfectly framed. And stretched over the canvas of haunting and stark music, the somber lyrics of Hospice somehow manage to be beautiful.

The more I listen to Hospice, the more impressed I become. Its swells and silence combine to form a completely devastating piece of art. This is not a happy album. This is not something you want to listen to at a party, or on the radio. But it is an album that begs to be understood, excruciating though that understanding may be. Amazingly enough, Silberman’s exile, isolation, and loneliness have given birth to a testament to human connection. I will be visiting this album for years to come.

90-94 — Near Perfection. One of the  bodies of best work in recent memory. Required listening for anyone who loves music in its purest form. (Rating Scale)

Chris Barth is a columnist here at Pretty Much Amazing. You can read his more succinct daily posts at his music blog, The Stu Reid Experiment.

To enter to win a copy of The Antlers' Hospice on vinyl or CD format (a total of two winners), leave a comment with your thoughts on the tracks you’ve just sampled, this review, or (if you’ve listened to it) the album. Make sure you leave your name/email address in the provided fields! Entries will be accepted until September 2nd