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September 16th, 2009
When it comes to the best concept albums of ghosts past, Dark Side of the Moon (Pink Floyd), 2112 (Rush), Tommy (The Who) and Sea Change (Beck) are obvious contenders. But the problem with lists is they are always debatable, so let’s just leave this one open-ended. Oh, and let us agree (or agree to disagree) that American Idiot by Green Day is not invited to this particular list party. End Scene.
The Antlers album, Hospice (released in March 2009) is one that has flown under the radar of many music lovers (and at no surprise with Virgin Fest, Lollapalooza, and the Vans Warped Tour occupying music-related media at every corner the past few months). So while amazing bands like Grizzly Bear, The Cold War Kids, and Silverstein have had their fair share of spotlight – and deservingly so – it’s time to give The Antlers an elongated flash (oxymoron?). LIGHTS. CAMERA. SPOTLIGHT.
The Antlers may have created what is easily the best concept album of 2009, Hospice. It may even be the album of the year. Yes, I went there.
The Antlers songwriter and architect Peter Silberman has materialized not only perfection (trust me, it is) but a showcase of the self-imposed isolation and discouragement he experienced after his move to Brooklyn in 2006. Sound a bit like Justin Vernon’s (better known as Bon Iver) story when he was writing For Emma, Forever Ago? If it doesn’t, just believe me that it is. Apparently you have to live alone in a wood cabin in the middle of nowhere, or move to the concrete jungles of New York to write incredible music. Either way the key word seems to be I-S-O-L-A-T-I-O-N.
But while Hospice is reminiscent of Justin Vernon’s work, this record is one in a million. This memoir sits comfortably outside the barrages of cliché as Silberman crafts tragic tales of heartbreak and regret through powerful and unforgettable metaphoric devices. The album projects dread and vulnerability, but you’d never know it from the catchy (and only) pop singles on the album, “Bear” and “Two” (songs you may recognize).
Hospice is full of slow motion feedback cyclones, soft and loud shifts, and sometimes drowning vocals, which have tempted listeners to compare The Antlers to the likes of Radiohead (a far-fetched attempt at trying to find a ‘sounds like’ music match). The album confronts death, but could not be more alive. The album reeks of fear, but is fearless in its existence. It’s raw, it’s sad, it’s haunting, and it’s addictive.
Listen to the album. I dare you. It’s a ten-song story that’ll be playing over and over again in your noggin.
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