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Brooklyn's latest greatest deliver heartbreaking concept album

Rating: 9 / 10

Francis Jones, 10 Nov 2009

Starting out as the solo project of Peter Silberman – in which incarnation the debut In The Attic Of The Universe was released in 2007 – The Antlers subsequently swelled to a three-piece and, earlier this year, self-released their second album Hospice. The record was soon attracting more buzz than a soda can in a bee’s nest. Remastered and re-released, this most poignant of concept albums seems poised to bring the Brooklynites the recognition they deserve.

This bleak chronicle of a man watching his loved one succumb to cancer is leavened by moments of bittersweet nostalgia. Initially, however, the sound of his burdened soul makes for an oppressive experience, washes of shoegazer guitar bristling against scratchy electronica. On ‘Atrophy’, gentle pitter-patter rhythms and frazzled keys hum for eight unbearably intense minutes. ‘Kettering’ meanwhile, is a knotty tangle of feelings, with Silberman guiltily realising, “I should have quit, but instead I took care of you”. Here, and on ‘Sylvia’, moments of electronic static give way to liberating guitar blowouts.

Later, ‘Bear’ chimes in with a gorgeous pop melody, as memories bleed out in a gentle Jeff Buckley-esque croon. However, even the sweetest reminiscences are fringed with sadness and a sense of foreboding. The shimmering guitar strum of ‘Two’ jars against the narrator’s awareness that, “This thing is gonna kill you”. The rest then, as documented with such painful clarity on ‘Wake’, is a matter of brute inevitability. Make no mistake, Hospice is often uncomfortable listening, but it is also a privilege to hear.

Rating: 9 / 10
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