For most bands, avoiding a sophomore slump is one of the biggest obstacles faced in a career. For the Antlers, a New York-based indie rock band led by songwriter Peter Silberman, the fourth album essentially posed the threat of a sophomore slump.
Burst Apart is the Antler’s fourth album and first release since the critically acclaimed Hospice, which acted as a breakthrough album for the band. Hopsice, an album chronicling a hospital patient’s demise and, ultimately, a destructive relationship, was shocking in its delivery and success, mostly because of the sensitivity of the subject and the discomfort and pain evoked at each listen. This album caused one’s emotions to spiral with each successive track, and Silberman’s lyrics and vocal delivery really made the album unique and impactful. It’s not necessarily an easy album to put on repeat, but with each re-visitation of the album, more meaning and purpose are found.
With the success of Hospice, it is easily apparent why the Antlers’ next album would have such high expectations. The music community wanted to see what musical direction the group would pursue. More concept albums and emotional spirals, or something entirely different? The answer is something quite different, but not in a disappointing manner.
Burst Apart takes a more track-by-track approach to an album instead of a fully embodied concept album. Instead of relying on previous and following tracks to shade in some of the necessary details, each track tells its own story and is independent of the other tracks. Instead of a hefty novel, the Antlers have accumulated a collection of short stories, with some of them being just as enticing as any of the individual components of their previous novel-like release.
The opening track of the album, “I Don’t Want Love,” sets a tone for the kinds of emotions presented throughout the album. There’s a lot of turmoil present from relationships and the pursuit of love, and the speaker of the track is displeased with it all. The track shimmers with resonating, pure guitars and Silberman’s mighty falsetto, which has gotten even stronger since the band’s last release.
Other highlights of the album are “No Windows,” a simplistically dismal yet gorgeous track that is much more stripped down than previous Antlers tracks but makes a strong mark melodically and texturally; “Every Night My Teeth Are Falling Out;” and the fitting closer “Putting the Dog To Sleep,” a track that relies mostly on Silberman’s soulful shrills with sparse, well-placed chordal attacks to accentuate the emotional devastation present in the lyrics.
Also, while some of Hospice‘s tracks, like “Sylvia” and “Kettering,” were more explosive and struggled through melancholy to reach a bursting display of wrenching falsetto, unfiltered noise, and full conveyance of the theme of this cancerous, parasitic relationship, Burst Apart takes a very different approach to Silberman’s creative spark. The previous release takes a reaction and portrays the explosive resultant of the process, while the new album seemingly takes to a more reverse process, breaking the explosion down and looking at the constituents that make up the reaction, the elements that lead to destruction and not just the immediate aftermath of the catastrophe. This different approach lacks some of the sheer grief and internal demise, the emotional twisting and tearing, but it does still leave an uneasiness that is signature to the band’s writing style. It’s still melancholy stuff, and the melodies are still there and are quite intact. In fact, the melodic components are more crucial and drive the album.
While Burst Apart isn’t quite as inspiring as Hospice was with its innovative styling, and while the band does wear its influences on its sleeves with some of the tracks (the Radiohead influence brims from “Parentheses” and even somewhat from “Every Night My Teeth Are Falling Out”), the Antlers’ different approach to making an album did not fall short of the high expectations. There are plenty of triumphs to be found in the band’s new release. It’s more sound than feel with Burst Apart, and it sounds pretty fantastic.