Everything about this album is downright fantastic: the story-like liner notes with italics to depict narratives and quotes to showcase dialogue, the blend of loud-soft-loud music and the way both are married to create an astonishing listen. This quintet of musicians are making a name for themselves and with Hospice, they have remarkably made one of 2009’s best albums.
This music is ridiculously magical; with its noise-deafening highs and tender reservations, the band is able to provide just the right amount of balance to deliver a knockout. “Atrophy” is a somber meditation on a rejected loser, crying for help. The music is tenaciously carried out by a driving piano and keyboard line as Peter Silberman re-tells a lavish story. Buzzing atmospherics pour in before Silberman is left with only his acoustic guitar to sing, “No one’s gonna come as long as I lay still in bed beside her.”
This is then followed by the melodic lullaby that is “Bear.” After a first half that was all about showcasing the band’s musical prowess, they only get better with this genius slice of life. Lavishly orchestrated, it rides along with a bouncy bass and some of the album’s more joyful singing. Initially, it begins with a developing skeleton, before succeeding into something fleshed and muscular and ultimately flows into an excellent composition.
There’s something especially endearing about a band willing to do everything on their own, without the help of a label. Hospice may just be The Antlers best album and it’s an enthralling listen that has a life of its own. Self-releasing their own music, timing releases around a digital world that has all but lost its concept of physical releases and delivering crashing, dynamically focused, gorgeous music all at the same time is quite the task. But when it is done right, it’s a noteworthy accomplishment.
Although “Prologue” is a growing instrumental, the lyrics (which are essential to this release) start off with an interesting story of love and denial. This then shifts into a powering tornado of music with “Kettering,” quiet and reflective at first, it swells into something mighty and forceful. And then there is the flowing river of “Two,” a song that at the album’s heart is absolutely superb. Not only is it harmonically rich but it features some of the best instrumentation with chugging guitars and shaking drums. All the while, Silberman’s voice trembles and quivers as he sings about he is “too cold to care and too sick to shout.” Yeah, the puns are everywhere and they are all admirable.
There’s a definite warmth to the music The Antlers have crafted. It used to be that artists and bands would make music as gifts to their listeners and fans. While very few still possess that perspective, it may be the tidy packaging, simple artwork, a deep story, that poignant music or a combination of everything, but Hospice carries out that tradition. “Epilogue” is the final present and with a driving guitar and Silberman’s tuneful falsetto to close us out, it’s a terrific offering. One can only hope others will be equally moved by music as prevailing as this because once it hits you, it’s amazing.
“Bear” by The Antlers
“Two” by The Antlers