prove to me i’m not going to die alone

I fell in love with The Antlers in the strangest way. They were the first band on the bill for Madfork 2.0 – a Madison lakeside mini-fest that snagged artists playing Pitchfork in Chicago the same weekend. I got downtown late, so as I was walking to the venue I could hear the strains of The Antlers floating through the city streets. The closer I got the clearer the sound and the stronger the pull, and by the end I was literally running to get to the lake. When there were finally no buildings between me and the stage, I stilled and listened, enraptured. I didn’t bother to find a seat or my friends until their set ended and I had a minute to snap out of the reverie. It’s rare to have such an immediate, all-encompassing love for a band, and even rarer to find this feeling with every live show and the records as well. Burst Apart fails me not; by the first chorus of the first song I had that familiar feeling of ecstatic suffocation.

Said song “I Don’t Want Love” hits hard and fast, the guitar propping up the lyrical notion of walking away. We’ve all got that mistake we’ve made again and again and eventually stopped making – this is the sound of that mistake echoing in your head.

A beautiful album front to back, Burst Apart is chock with good songs. “Parentheses” is dark and sinewy, perfect movie music for an international spy thriller. “Hounds” is slow and dreamy, and is followed by the restrained  beauty and soft sadness of “Corsicana”. There were three songs I listened to for at least an hour on repeat, though. The aforementioned “I Don’t Want Love”, “No Widows”, and “Putting the Dog to Sleep”.

“No Widows” is a really gorgeous piece; it’s like trying to run through water, or like being submerged in a dream. Singer Peter Silberman’s crystalline ‘oohs’ cut right through you as Michael Lerner’s drums nip at your heels and Darby Cicci’s carnivalesque synth trails you at every turn. Album closer “Putting the Dog to Sleep” takes its melodic slant from the ever-popular 50s prom ballad motif. Instead of teen angels or nights at the drive-in, though, Silberman sings of the painfully real issues of trust, love, and messes both emotional and physical.

The Antlers make music that is so sad and visceral that I want to lay in bed for days, but is at once so beautiful and moving that I can’t possibly do anything but go out and live.

Burst Apart dropped 05.10.11.
Download “Every Night My Teeth Are Falling Out” here.
Stream Burst Apart at NPR First Listen.

i’m bound to your bedside, your eulogy singer

Last July I was lucky enough to catch the last two minutes or so of The Antlers‘ Madfork 2.0 set. I was also unlucky in only catching the last two minutes of their set. Shortly thereafter, I listened to everything they had posted on their site, and just wasn’t as impressed as I had been a few days before. Yesterday, October 30th, 2009, Daytrotter posted their session with The Antlers, so I gave it a listen. Hooray for Daytrotter, because they managed to capture much of the magic I was witness to last summer. Being reassured that The Antlers were as amazing as I remembered, I looked up tour dates and discovered the band was in town that very night. The good people at Tell All Your Friends PR responded to my last-minute request, and I had the pleasure of attending The Antlers’ opening set at the Independent in San Francisco, CA.

Though the Daytrotter set is superb, nothing compares to seeing The Antlers play live. Peter Silberman (vocals/guitar), Darby Cicci (keys), and Michael Lerner (percussion) play off each other to create ever-expanding landscapes, filling every available space with sound. Silberman stands to the side, his vocals mixed down in the wash of sound, giving the impression of drowning or speaking from beyond. Lerner’s precision tows Silberman along, and Cicci attacks his instruments as though they need to be powered by his touch.

The songs in The Antlers’ set range from catchy and misleadingly upbeat (“Two”) to hopelessly beautiful (“Atrophy”), commonly employing the struggle of triumph and hope against a nagging sense of despair and defeat. What The Antlers syphon out of the room emotionally in the course of a set may never be replaced, but we must do our best to stanch the flow with tourniquets and transfusions.

(PARTIAL?) SET LIST: Bear, Sylvia, Atrophy, Two, Wake