Review Summary: Don't forget to feel.
I've talked to a lot of people about music's effect on emotion. Apparently, many of them can listen to music and have it change their mood. I kind of doubt that this can happen quite to that degree (why wouldn't they just listen to happy music all the time?) but I do understand that some are more sensitive to the emotions that music gives off. I'd like to say that I'm a sensitive person too. But I can't change my mood with music. Maybe I'm too used to the cliches, maybe I've tried too hard and broken it. Regardless, it doesn't work for me. Most of my music discovery as a 15-year-old consisted of me scouring the web for music (or anything, for that matter) that would make me feel happy. None of it worked. My attempts just led to further unhappiness as I eventually realized I was just in denial.
As such, when people like me are in the thralls of emotion and the deepest, darkest pits of our valley-and-mountain life, we know well enough that we can't "fake it 'till we make it." So we search for something that feels real
, something that won't drag us down any farther or tell us that life is good but will simply accept the tragic reality of the hell that existence feels like in the moment. Thank heaven for Hospice
As you probably guessed by the album title, Hospice
is sad. It's conceptual, loosely based on a man grieving over a dying woman in a hospital. If this is scaring you already, turn back now, because it just gets worse. "Bear," for example, confronts an abortion, a daring choice. Lest you worry about politics being thrown in your face, this song simply describes the heartbreak and social dismissal that a couple feels upon making their decision. It's incredibly touching, smart, and heartfelt. This social dismissal is explored further in "Two," one of the most frisson-filled songs I have ever heard and expect I ever will hear. The Antlers understand that you can't just run away from people - they're there, they're essential, and you have to deal with them, or else face depressing issues like those discussed in the song.
I've avoided discussing the main theme of the album so far - death. I think that's because I'm not very experienced with it and as such feel pretty inadequate to write about it. I can't fairly say that I know much of anything about death because I've never had anyone particularly close to me die. Typing this review makes me think that I'll probably look back in ten or so years, by which time I'll inevitably have had the tragedy strike my life, and wonder how I could be so presumptuous. I hope I can express even a fraction of the emotion that others have felt, but I probably won't be able to.
Death has an intense impact on people, and every effect is different. Some people become thinly veiled caricatures of their previous selves, holding it together against all odds and hurting themselves with denial. Some people completely break apart and never really heal, struggling to make it through a single day. Some people join together with others and appreciate every single person that they still have around them. Most people have some sort of combination of these, if not infinite more reactions. Hospice
catches all of these intense, life-changing feelings, and slowly releases them to the listener in spurts and pieces. I can't really describe them all to you, but here's one.
Halfway into "Wake," something hits me, whenever I'm listening, and I always forget exactly how powerful it is. It's really just a slow chord-dropping build-up for another climax, but it's the most touching part of the album. Then, after finally showing you your broken heart that it's been teasing the whole album, it gushes out:
"don't ever, let anyone, tell you you deserve that"
Suddenly everything comes flooding back - remember being hurt and promising to never let anyone else feel that way? Remember being sad and promising you'd never be happy again? Remember being happy and promising you'd never be sad? Remember childhood? Remember innocence? Remember when they still had life in their eyes? All these promises, feelings, and memories come flooding back and any fragments of emotional stability are now shredded to pieces.
That's what this album really is best at, after all - breaking emotional numbness. Sometimes, we'd rather be stable in our relative peace with life, and if you feel like that I wouldn't recommend Hospice
. But if you feel like you can't feel anything, it is, by far, the best piece of music I have discovered for bringing back your sense of emotion and connection with reality. While I wouldn't wish the feelings it exudes on anyone, I suspect that those feelings are a common trial of humanity. From my experience, there's no way to avoid them. So when you are hopelessly broken, listen and remember.