The Antlers – Burst Apart The Antlers – Burst Apart

I suppose one of the benefits of being from Brooklyn’s copycat rock scene is that other, less-talented, would-be doppelgänger bands keep an intense pressure on original artists to keep reinventing their sound. What would be the benefit of living in New York, though, if you are living under self-imposed “social isolation”? All the fun of paying high rent, small spaces, and bad attitudes, without getting to mix with the bourgeoisie crowd? Aren’t they one of the main attractions to young musicians living in the indie epicenter of the world?

These are the questions I had to ask myself when I first heard The Antlers’ 2009 release “Hospice”. 2009 was a year where Brooklyn pop dominated the national music scene. With releases from the psychedelic end of the pop spectrum in “Merriweather Post Pavilion” by Animal Collective, to the folkie and experimental brand of pop that the Dirty Projectors enjoyed so much acclaim for, the recipe for the commercial viability of a Brooklyn band seemed pretty well paved. Yet while much of Brooklyn was playing follow the leader, lead singer Peter Silberman unveiled “Hospice”, an album so spacious at times that it bordered on ambient. Pensive, reflective, and intensely intimate “Hospice” had success in a scene that, on the surface, it didn’t seem to fit into.

So why am I so surprised that in a lot of ways The Antlers sophomore release Burst Apart sounds like a completely inverted version of their debut album? And as a follow-up rhetorical question how is the opposite of a really good album an even more exceptional piece of work?

The songs on “Burst Apart” are at their most authoritative when Silberman’s guitar drives both the drums and electronics (like on the single “Parentheses”) and not the other way around. It’s apparent that the songs that have a very judicious use of guitar, like “No Windows” and “Rolled Together” are strategically placed throughout the album acting as the mortar holding together a structure consisting of the guitar-centric tracks.

When I would try to play “Hospice” for people unfamiliar with The Antlers, the main complaint I would receive was that it was far too downtrodden to be appropriate for any situation that didn’t involve heavy whiskey drinking and a breakup. Yet I’m betting those same people who viewed the sparse composition of “Hospice” as a shortcoming will point to “Burst Apart” and it’s vigor as a reason why it succeeds. While there is certain to be a group of people who still find the measured pace of “Burst Apart” uninspiring, I think most will concede that it’s infinitely more accessible than “Hospice”. On its nose I think the easy explanation for this would be several of the songs on “Burst Apart” carry a higher tempo. Yet I feel that the majority of the vibrancy is actually generated internally. “Burst Apart” is a picturesque album highlighted with a sense of urgency that is the byproduct of The Antlers never spoon feeding an emotion to the listeners, or peppering in worn platitudes for a cheap tug on the heartstrings.

1. I Don’t Want Love
2. French Exit
3. Parentheses
4. No Widows
5. Rolled Together
6. Every Night My Teeth Are Falling Out
7. Tiptoe
8. Hounds
9. Corsicana
10. Putting the Dog to Sleep

The Antlers - Burst Apart, reviewed by Big Ben on 2011-06-15T07:07:07-07:00 rating 4.4 out of 5

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