The Antlers – Green To Gold
Released March 26th, 2021 on Anti- Records
The Antlers have never been afraid of pushing boundaries. When they hit widespread awareness in 2009 it was for an album that is one of the most depressing listens in the indie canon. This was not exactly a safe bet in a year when people just wanted to vibe. It was the year chillwave really first started taking off, and the year that Merriweather Post Pavilion came out. Hospice, meanwhile, wanted to tell you the heart-rending story of a terminal cancer patient and the hospice worker that falls in love with her. Despite being at odds with the tone and the times, Hospice launched the band’s career and made them household names to indie listeners. The two follow-up albums, 2011’s Burst Apart and 2014’s Familiars, were good but failed to capture that initial magic. Hospice was a coherent concept album that tore at your emotions and left you feeling barren. The next two albums were collections of songs. Good songs, but they didn’t have anything to really tie them together, and although the band’s signature soft-focus style kept it interesting there wasn’t anything to set them apart from any other workaday XMU band.
Seven years later the band has come back with their sixth album and it seems that they’ve settled into a certain knowing maturity. There’s no conceptual headiness here, and Peter Silberman floats back and forth between the personal and poetic so easily that sometimes you don’t quite notice. The songs instead double down on the band’s underlying strengths: their ability to create gorgeous, soaring soundscapes that feel as close to orchestration as you’re likely to get in a standard-instrument indie rock band. These are songs that take slow grace as their organizing metaphor. The sonic palette at first seems monochromatic, but the further you wade into these songs the more you start recognizing landmarks to navigate by. The hooks are there, for the patient; the patient, of course, seems to be the core audience that the band plays to. That’s a pun on Hospice. I’ll leave quietly.
There are moments, of course, where everything seems to blend together. When you have a band whose sound is as singular as The Antlers, that happens pretty naturally. When they burst above that surface, though, it’s startling. They continue to push the envelope, but it’s more subtle now; you don’t notice it until minutes afterward, when you’re replaying what you just listened to in your head.