Review Summary: The hardest thing is never to repent for someone else, it's letting people in.
As much as I hate to admit it, a little boilerplate is necessary to describe The Antlers' Hospice
: yes, frontman Peter Silberman did hole himself up in a Brooklyn apartment to write the album; yes, this was a very sad period in his life; and yes, this does shine through for the duration of Hospice
. The album, first self-released by the band in March 2009 and then re-released through Frenchkiss Records in August later that year, tells the story of a man losing a loved one to cancer, not only having to deal with her complaints and unstable feelings towards him, but also inflicting on himself the pain of watching her die. Though the concept of "personal-goes-universal" is often applied to "concept albums" driven by powerful storylines and themes like the ones on display here, what really makes Hospice
work so well is the conviction with which Silberman displays his feelings.
This isn't to say, however, that one can simply Google the lyrics and say they experienced the album firsthand. Also important to the album's success is the fact that it sounds
isn't exactly "well-produced", but the brooding mix of "slowcore" and folk music (often burrowed under blankets of thick guitar and rippling piano) does more than its share of carrying along Silberman's narrative.
As well, integral to enjoying Hospice
is recognition of the fact that it works brilliantly as an album
, not only with its overlying narrative but also with the many underlying themes and motifs (both musical and lyrical) that the band manage to fit in to the album's 50-minute length. Of all of these, the shared chord progression (which sounds slightly like "Twinkle Twinkle Little Star") between abortion-depicting "Bear" and closer "Epilogue" is best. On the former, the melody is used to facilitate a childish verse and sweeping chorus. However, on the latter, Silberman strips the instrumentation down to just his acoustic guitar and sings--perhaps literally--his heart out. The effect is devastating: just as with the rest of the album, Silberman sounds about ready to start crying. By the end, you just might be prepared to cry right along with him.