How do you follow an album like Hospice? That album is an emotional wrecking-ball, spinning joy, sorrow, hope, and despair into an incredible – and incredibly draining – fifty minutes of music. So how do you follow it up? If you’re smart, you don’t. You don’t even try. Burst Apart, the Antlers' latest release, leaves behind the narrative concept album in favor of a more traditional form, revealing a band that has continued to evolve in hopes of shaking the looming potential for a post-catharsis slump. The band has called this album upbeat, but that’s not exactly true; more specifically, Burst Apart is the sadly smiling face of someone trying to look through the specters to find the bright spots. This album is the slow recovery from the trauma of Hospice.
Normally, this is the spot in the review where I would say something like: “But this album isn’t Hospice, so there’s no use comparing the two,” or, “But we’re not here to talk about the past.” But sorry, I just can’t do that. The emotional connection the band’s debut forges with interested listeners makes it an indelible reference for any Antlers commentary at present, and while I would like to listen to this record in a vacuum, I just can’t. So there’s that.
The dominant difference between Burst Apart and its predecessor is the feeling of purpose and inertia present. Where Hospice loses itself in ethereal swell, the songs on Burst Apart find pulsing beats and forward-moving guitars; it's not content to wallow, preferring to, finally, begin picking up the pieces. The fuzzy film that covered Hospice has been wiped away to reveal a cleaner, lush sound that fits the rejuvenation. Burst Apart’s penultimate track, “Corsicana,” would easily fit on Hospice, save for its crystalline sound. The band isn’t hiding behind any curtains.
The opening tracks on the two albums are not so dissimilar in their opening notes, but “I Don’t Want Love” on Burst Apart seems like the product of a mind that’s aware of potential pitfalls. The abusive relationships are still there, but this time lead singer Peter Silberman outlines his rules of engagement: “If I see you again/Desperate and stoned/Keep your prison locked up/And I will leave my gun at home.”
That sort of self-awareness and honesty is what brings Burst Apart alive, as Silberman lays bare his feelings with gentle poetry and howling, split-open vocals. While Hospice seemed designed to create a welling in your chest, a maelstrom of heartbreak destined to sit inside your rib cage, Burst Apart’s title seems much more indicative of the mood of this record. Although it’s not exactly busting from the seams, it finds the band much more outwardly focused, willing to face the audience, instruments in hand, and play their way through the ups and downs of the world. There are still battles (“Every time we speak you are spitting in my mouth) and unanswered questions (“We should shut the window we both left open now”) but there’s also a lot more awareness and purpose. “I don’t owe you anything,” sings Silberman on “Parentheses.” Elsewhere it’s “I want to speak for you,” “I wanna push you back down,” and “I don’t want love.”
Silberman’s singing and his songwriting are the emotional core of this band, and they are just as strong here as ever. Damn if Peter Silberman can’t write a poetic line. Though the songs on Burst Apart feature Silberman at full bore less frequently, when he does let it rip, like on “Every Night My Teeth Are Falling Out” and “Putting The Dog To Sleep,” the Antlers are at their most evocative. The latter song is one of the band’s best efforts, a stunning mix of power and poetry. “Well my trust in you,” sings Silberman, “is a dog with a broken leg. Tendons too torn to beg for you to let me back in.”
Burst Apart is a beautiful portrait of The Antlers as young artists, getting through heartbreak step by step, and painfully exposing that process to the world. This isn’t a happy album, but it’s a hopeful one, and its honesty is evident in every syllable of the record. Here we see Peter Silberman, to use his own words, “pulled together but about to burst apart.” It’s beautiful.
01 I Don't Want Love
02 French Exit
04 No Widows
05 Rolled Together
06 Every Night My Teeth Are Falling Out .mp3
10 Putting the Dog to Sleep
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