Review Summary: What it feels like to stare into the stars and ponder the significance, or insignificance, of everything.In the Attic of the Universe
is a brilliant blend of extremes. It is majestic but humble, physical yet ethereal…everywhere and somehow nowhere all at once. It’s totally organic, running its course over twenty seven stunningly gorgeous minutes without the slightest care towards marketing technique or album norms. In the Attic of the Universe
is rooted in the moment, but its implications stretch towards the most intangible of horizons. This is The Antlers’ forgotten record; one of the most intellectually expansive and unflinchingly beautiful indie-rock albums of all time.
It’s appropriate that this record got buried in the wake of Hospice
, because it's far less emotionally intense and is literally half the length. While the celestial voice of Peter Silberman proves equally powerful and agile in spurts, the primary difference between In The Attic of the Universe
– and all other Antlers’ offerings for that matter – is the instrumental atmosphere. Nowhere else do we witness the band craft a world so profound and alluring that Silberman’s talents actually take a back seat to the music, but that’s precisely what happens here. From the fast riffing on ‘Look!’ to the starry, wondrous chimes that glisten across ‘Shh!’, the band concocts an aura so warm and awe-inspiring that it’s a challenging feat to catch your breath while taking it all in.
This spellbinding quality lends In the Attic of the Universe
its undeniably profound nature, as if every hushed falsetto by Silberman holds some kind of key to the universe. The sprawling soundscape exists on an otherworldly plane of mesmerizing ambiance, and it’s enough to veil the vocal contributions in a shroud of mystery. Take for instance the icy, piano-laden opener ‘In the Attic’, where Silberman sounds as though he’s singing to us from another room while acoustic guitars and thumping drum beats beckon us to come closer. There’s also the hushed croons and wispy oohs
of ‘In The Snow’, which effortlessly blend instrument and voice into one airy, chill-inducing atmosphere. There’s a level of fusion here that isn’t present on later outings by this band, and it feels like a fleeting moment in time that came and went all too quickly. Those who like The Antlers slightly less polished and a little rougher around the edges will cherish what are now wrinkles in the band’s long-established fabric, and they can be found throughout this experience.
Despite its comparatively granular composition, In the Attic of the Universe
feels less like a building block to future successes and more like “the album that got away.” For as underrated and unnoticed as it seems to be with respect to their entire discography, In the Attic
is easily their most effortless, even-flowing concept album. Centered around the ideas of space and time, it is wholly philosophical and existential by nature. On the closing ‘Stairs to the Attic’ – a song that begins with meek acoustic strumming but erupts into thunderous percussion - Silberman ponders the meaning of life itself:
Everything had opened wide
Into the jaws of something bigger
And suddenly I saw that I was
Upstairs and outside and freezing on the roof
Finally it had found me
The answer, the feeling, and the truth:
That I'm small
That I'm small
That I'm small
I'm smaller than the smallest fireball
For as comparatively downturned as Silberman’s vocals are on this album in general, he turns the dial all the way up during this track’s climactic moment, which coincides with his realization that he is but a speck upon a speck in the grand scheme of the universe. Even the musical contributions play into the concept quite well, as the instrumental track ‘The Carrying Arms’ features reversed instrumentation to conjure a cyclical feeling. From start to finish, The Antlers create an absolutely ideal portrayal of what it feels like to stare into the stars and ponder the significance, or insignificance, of everything.
In the Attic of the Universe
is likely one of the best albums you haven’t heard. Even longtime fans of the Antlers tend to overlook this release based on the sheer strength of Hospice
, Burst Apart
, and the Undersea
EP. It’s a shame, but at the same time it makes connecting with this album all the more intimate. It may appear to be a bit of a flash in the pan clocking in at under thirty minutes, but even the blink and you’ll miss it
length somehow makes it more endearing because you can fit a listen in at just about any time. Standing as The Antlers’ indie-cred album, In the Attic of the Universe
is perfect in its own plethora of ways – even if it will never be recognized as anything more than a humble beginning.