The Antlers
Burst Apart


3.0
good

Review

by Matteo Ferrazzi USER (10 Reviews)
April 28th, 2011 | 20 replies


Release Date: 2011 | Tracklist


I apologize in advance, for this is plausibly the nth review you will read about the Antlers’ fourth LP (second in their current setup as a trio) where their previous, magnificent album, Hospice, gets an awful lot of space. That can’t be avoided. Hospice, a sprawling and disturbing concept album about cancer among other things, will certainly be career defining for a long time unless the Antlers take a drastic U-turn in their aesthetic sensitivity: its remarkable narrative focus and heartfelt clarity made it a unique piece of work in its time – few influences could be traced musically and even fewer when it came to the disarming and bleak emotional territory it mined. It was a huge drain on the listener as much as it was a cathartic experience, and it must have been the same for the band to record it, times a thousand. The album pointed towards different possible directions in the development of the band’s sound, but certainly one option wasn’t viable – Hospice II.

I won’t bore you with all the metaphysical ruminations on what I ‘expected’ from this follow-up – those are always subjective and hardly ever relevant. Let’s cut to the chase: Burst Apart is, before all value judgement, a less dramatic affair, more eclectic in sound, more conventional in song structure, generally more uptempo but at the same time lacking in veritable peaks. Also, it is not (to the best of my knowledge) a concept album, and Silberman’s approach to lyrics has become more cryptic, with varying degrees of success.

Some of you who heard Hospice (certainly not its most fervent fans) will be relieved to hear that Burst Apart boasts a larger rhythmic variety, which is the feature that’s most readily apparent on listen one. Parentheses is tense and strident, sporting a guitar riff reminiscent of Radiohead circa The Bends; French Exit has an understated funky vibe to it, and it is prime evidence to this record’s decidedly more light-hearted mood. Silberman said he had never been so excited to get his work heard by the public, and that may be trivially true because he’s never had as big an audience as now, but perhaps it’s also because here he is exhibiting a considerably larger palette of sounds.

A common warning when you’re striving for breadth is that you shouldn’t sacrifice depth in the process: sadly, that’s what seems to be happening here. The main problem with Burst Apart is that many songs seem to go nowhere. Rather than penning songs with a feeling of progression and climax, or with inventive structures (of which he’s proved capable), here Silberman seems mostly content with repeating one central idea – granted, often a good one – several times while adding or removing layers of sound, often without adding much to the experience. The songs that I have cited as examples of novelty are even better evidence for the inherent shallowness of this record. They both end roughly in the same way they started, and on top of that it’s not really clear what kind of feeling they are trying to convey – odd, considering how the Antlers’ greatest strength was their ability to empathise with the human condition. This holds true for several other songs on the record: it all sounds (un)remarkably neutral and flat, even when on the surface it seems to aim for emotional heights.

There are a few highlights that save the record, and fatally they are the most reminiscent of, wait for it, Hospice. No Widows – which, with its syncopated beat and half-whispered vocals, wouldn’t sound out of place in Age Of Adz – starts off intimist and eventually reaches an intensity of religious proportions. Every Night My Teeth Are Falling Out is far and away the best song on this album. It is Silberman at his most direct and confrontational: he manages to sound simultaneously compassionate and resentful, and he paints an unsettling and despairing picture of a psyche in disarray, wherein his struggle and sense of inadequacy with his loved one branch out into his dreams (presumably where his teeth are falling out).

Lyrically it’s a hit and miss affair. One song in particular works as an example: the closer, Putting The Dog To Sleep. It starts with ‘Prove to me I’m not gonna die alone / Put your arm ‘round my collar bone’ where a possibly sappy line is turned over its head by a tangible detail, reassuringly concrete, perhaps ungracious even, but touchingly so. However a few lines later there’s the clanger: ‘my trust in you/ is a dog with a broken leg’ – a clumsy and unclear metaphor that also redundantly riffs on the title and main subject of the song.

The general impression seems to be that Silberman has problems dealing with subject matter that isn’t excruciatingly heavy or dark: he is not made for middle ground, whether it is musically or lyrically, and yet that’s what he’s treading most of the time in this record. You could say that Burst Apart is like Hospice with greater instrumental variety but both ends of its spectrum clipped out: none of the soft and eerie, none of the loud and shimmering, and eventually everything comes off as incomplete. Sure, there are moments that are bigger and more solemn than others, and atmospheric ballads, but they lack the emotional urgency that goes with it.

If I sound slightly too harsh towards this effort it’s because it’s clear that the Antlers could do so much better, and Silberman's enthusiasm for this record leaves me baffled. However, it is by no means an unadulterated failure, for there are some interesting ideas to be found here, and I’m eagerly waiting for their next record which could still be their masterpiece. But I’m not waiting for Hospice II.



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user ratings (596)
Chart.
3.8
excellent
other reviews of this album
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Comments:Add a Comment 
teoferrazzi
April 28th 2011


31 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

streaming on NPR: http://www.npr.org/2011/04/24/135572911/first-listen-the-antlers-burst-apart

balcaen
April 28th 2011


3183 Comments


i'll probably listen to it within the next week...
but uh
does the lead vocalist still sound geriatric as fuck? i couldn't stand him in hospice

teoferrazzi
April 28th 2011


31 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

he's heavier on the falsetto, and generally more tolerable

letsgofishing
April 28th 2011


908 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0 | Sound Off

This review strikes me as a couple paragraphs too long, for example the second paragraphs uses 4 sentences to
state that Burst Apart is less dramatic in sound, which not only do you already establish in other paragraphs, but,
at the very least, you could of just slipped a sentence into the third paragraph and achieve the same effect. In
general, you seem to try to squeeze every single piece of information you have in this review, whether it's needed or
not, causing it to just feel like you're rambling. Pick out what's important and don't be afraid to ditch what isn't.
You're also a little too personal in this review, get rid of every personal adjective that you can, it makes your review
seem more objective than subjective, which is always a good thing.

Hope that wasn't too harsh. It was a solid effort, just seems to need a little more polish. If it means anything, I
enjoyed reading it. I shared this impression on my first listen, so it's good to see it put into words.

Edit: Also, never start a review with, "I apologize", just makes me have a negative perception of what
you're about to say. In fact, never apologize, because everything you say is fucking important, damn it!

DoubtGin
April 28th 2011


6752 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

album is incredible

lancebramsay
April 28th 2011


1585 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

I enjoyed the album thoroughly, and review is a tad long... I will read it later

SowingSeason
Staff Reviewer
April 28th 2011


16789 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5 | Sound Off

Still considering reviewing this but im not sure yet.

Plus this is a good review, pos

Digging: Damien Rice - My Favourite Faded Fantasy

thebhoy
Emeritus
April 28th 2011


4461 Comments


I listened to this once and don't really want to listen to it again

teoferrazzi
April 28th 2011


31 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

you won't get off that easy, thebhoy. constructive criticism, chop-chop

Jips
April 28th 2011


1137 Comments


review is too long...but pretty good job

not heard the album yet...

thebhoy
Emeritus
April 29th 2011


4461 Comments


okay then. First off, I agree with the others, this is too long.

The first paragraph is unecessary; you can easily condense that into a one to two sentence beginning of an intro paragraph.

The last few paragraphs seem to just be there, as if they were addendums that you couldn't work into your main review and kept remembering new things to say. Paragraphs 2-4 get into a nice rhythm, with some nice writing, but those last few paragraphs sort of remove that momentum.

It has a lot to do with learning to be concise, which is really all about finding the right writing style. But at 6 reviews it's not a problem that you don't have it yet. It's just something that comes about with time and practice.

paxman
April 29th 2011


4084 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

Omit the first and final paragraphs. Other than that, the review was great. I particularly enjoyed the critique on the lyrics. There aren't many reviewers who take analytical looks at the words accompanying the music, which I feel are equally as important as the guitar or the drums.

Drsmith4
April 29th 2011


1717 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5 | Sound Off

This is so much better than Hospice.

Spec
April 29th 2011


27271 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

I dug Hospice. Guess i'll check this out.

Digging: Midnight - No Mercy for Mayhem

taxidermist
April 29th 2011


7212 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5 | Sound Off

Dug Hospice. Album was ok.

Digging: Whirr/Nothing - Split

beefshoes
April 29th 2011


4316 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

This is easier to listen to then Hospice but I am not liking this as much.

Digging: Ne Obliviscaris - Citadel

taxidermist
April 30th 2011


7212 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5 | Sound Off

Hospice is hard to top, though.

SHAKEandBAKE
April 30th 2011


1310 Comments


I love the album name for some reason.

Steoandnoodles
April 30th 2011


2832 Comments


Lacks some pop tracks. It's a really demanding album.

Lucid
Contributing Reviewer
June 28th 2011


7026 Comments


putting the listener to sleep



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