It’s easy enough to guess the theme of The Antlers’ full length debut from its title. The word “hospice” fits the album’s mood and concept so well, in fact, that it would be a difficult task to come up with any other title. The album is loosely based on a man who falls in love with a dying cancer patient, but the subject matter of the album touches on other topics as well (abortion, mental illness, death). To say the album is dark would be an understatement; to say it is emotional wouldn’t even begin to describe it. The Antlers is basically Peter Silberman, and two other musicians (Michael Lerner and Darby Cicci) who play the instruments that he does not. In addition to already having a notoriously passionate live performance, the band now has one of the most emotionally exhausting and beautifully written albums released in the past few years.
Of course this is all opinion, but I find it hard to believe that anyone who listens to Hospice while reading the lyrics (and truly paying attention to the details of the music) can be anything but thoroughly moved.
“Prologue”, a sparse instrumental introduction, starts the record off. The track does an excellent job of setting a mood for the next track, “Kettering”, to elaborate on. I won’t bore you by explaining how I think the songs relate to the story/concept (I’ll leave that up to my fellow listeners). “Kettering” uses a melody so beautiful and original that, the first time I heard it, I had to listen several more times before moving on to the next track. Songs like “Bear” (which uses a deceivingly uplifting melody to disguise a ferociously depressing subject) or “Two” are instantly impressive, but most of the album takes a few run-throughs to really appreciate. The penultimate track, entitled “Wake”, is a nine-minute behemoth that serves as a climax for both the musical and lyrical aspects of the album. Hospice seems to have this attractive quality about it: once you are hooked, you won’t have the ability to stop listening. Sure, every time the final chorus in closing track “Epilogue” comes around, and the album ends, you’ll feel as though you’ve just completed the most disturbingly sad novel you’ve ever read, but you’ll also feel satisfied. Hospice is truly a gem of an album. I’ve never heard another one like it, and I am doubtful I ever will, even from the same band. The Antlers have created a masterpiece, and it is something to be cherished, even if it does make your life just a little bit less bright.