When The Antlers dropped their 2009 LP ‘Hospice’ it was considered by many to be a modern classic. A concept album about someone dying of cancer in a hospital ward, signifying the break up of a relationship. As you can imagine it was a miserable album, and their 2011 follow up, Burst Apart was also miserable. An album that lacked much of the coherence of the first one in theme but focused more on the instrumentation. Their new album ’Familiars’ seems to be the sonic coherence we haven’t had from them before.
Much of the music of this album is influenced by jazz music and they stated in interviews that it certainly had a big effect on how they approached the album. You can hear right from the beginning that there a lot more space on the album and feels a lot less claustrophobic than any of the previous albums. There are haunting horns that run throughout this record that are often drenched in reverb. They make it ghostly yet beautiful like on the second track, the seven minute song Doppelganger. Because of the wide instrumentation and spaced out pieces the songs seem flow into each other in a way that is so smooth. Much like Bon Iver’s second album that took instrumental leaps this album can be bliss when it’s taken at an atmospheric level. As an atmosphere alone it’ll make you marvel at it’s beauty.
One of the complaints from many with their last albums is they don’t like sadness being shoved down their throats. This seemed to have been addressed in part on this album. For a start Silberman’s falsetto is toned down and isn’t so constant as before. He breaks into falsetto at more necessary times and it makes it so much more emotionally powerful such as on the album standout ’Intruders’. The lyrics are also more reflective and has Silberman philosophising rather than being straight up obviously heart breaking like on the song ’Surrender’ which features the repeated lyrics ‘we need to make our history less commanding’. This lyric could be a some up for the entire album thematically. An album about looking into the past and how to deal with it.
No doubt some will argue that it does become slightly repetitive towards the end but you get the feeling that that’s exactly what The Antlers wanted. The whole theme of the past and the whole familiar dreamy feeling the whole way through both lyrically and instrumentally ends up giving them their most coherent and rewarding record to date. A record that deserves your time and energy to work out the nitty gritty details of it all.