Review Summary: The Antlers' masterpiece.We wake up with pounding heads,
Bruised down below.
I should have built better walls,
Or slept in my clothes.
There’s a discernible sense of irony when Peter Silberman sings “I don’t want love” in the opening track of Burst Apart
. It’s very telling that he’d declare such a thing while lamenting his insecurities with lines like “I wanna push you back down, but I let you inside,” and, “I should have built better walls.” I understand his sentiments; he’s reluctant to let someone in because he’s afraid of being hurt, and I think we’ve all been there before. Maybe that’s why I connected with Burst Apart
almost instantly, because I can relate to its songwriter’s themes so well. Initially it isn’t quite as emotional as the stifling confessionals presented on Hospice
, but Burst Apart
harbours themes of loneliness, self-destruction, and uncertainty--Silberman simply employs more tact here. It sounds more like a matured, somber version of Deerhunter than the folksy Jeff Magnum-influenced Hospice
, which is a seemingly appropriate transition for the band. This time around there’s a great deal of focus on fleshing out Silberman’s slick falsetto, and the band is given more room to explore their sound, no longer taking a backseat to Silberman’s narrative. And though it doesn’t feel quite as achingly personal as Hospice
, Burst Apart
is almost every bit as devastating, affecting more through its music than with Silberman’s lyrics (but make no mistake, Silberman’s writing is every bit as integral to the music).
That said, opener “I Don’t Want Love” does seem to set an almost deceptively happy mood. One would be excused for thinking such a thing, as upbeat guitar playing and electronics contradicts the emotional catharsis of Silberman’s lyrics. This happens a few times on Burst Apart
, most notably on “No Widows” and “Putting the Dog to Sleep”. The former sounds almost hypnotic, playing in the vein of house music, while the balladry “Putting the Dog to Sleep” develops a shimmering melody into a maddeningly infectious hook. What’s surprising is how they’re simultaneously catchy and depressing (a testament to the band’s ability to present their music in a more accessible way, I suppose). “No Widows” is an easy song to get lost in; it’s a mastery of production finesse and Silberman’s tasteful croons. It tells the story of a man with no kinship: “If I never get back home/There's no garden on the ground/No widows at the wall/No widows left at all/No shirts that I will fold/No kid I want to hold”. He has nothing to go back to, made all the worse by his inability to find solace in death: “No perfect love above; no punishment down below”. “Putting the Dog to Sleep” is Silberman’s song of reconciliation; a song whose message is presented in metaphor about someone being resigned to something not desired. In Silberman’s words, it’s about “forgiving without forgetting,” ending the album with uncertainty and a hint of indifference. He sounds almost reassured when he declares “I’m not going to die alone” until he follows with “...I don’t think so”. Such are the themes that speak about the aftermath of Hospice
, finding Silberman more accepting and receptive of moving forward.
From the latter-day Radiohead-esque numbers “Rolled Together” and “Parentheses” (think Amnesiac
) to the swirling noise and percussion that complement Silberman’s crescendoing falsetto so well in “I Don’t Want Love,” there are just too many reasons to love Burst Apart
. The music is textural, atmospheric, and incredibly varied. From rock and roll to ambient interludes (“Tiptoe”), Burst Apart
has a lot more to offer than other Antlers albums. Silberman really harnesses the full power of his voice here and reaches for highs previously unexplored. His voice is interwoven so seamlessly in these tracks that it almost feels like another instrument in the mix. Not only do these things capture the essence of what made Hospice
such an important record, it makes Burst Apart
feel so much more like a band effort. Its themes aren’t so perturbingly bleak that listening to it is draining, but it’s still very relatable and emotional. We’ve all experienced heartbreak and the futility that ensues, the feeling of not feeling enough, and, of course, regret. What Burst Apart
does in spades is capture the very essence of these feelings and more, but it’s not suffocatingly personal. This time around Silberman is writing more for an audience than for himself, and Burst Apart
is the better album because of it.