If there’s one band that controlled melancholy and sadness in the 21st century, it would be The Antlers. While the 90’s was about the anger and rebellion for many youths, the 2000’s are about trying to capture that feeling with a different sound. Arcade Fire completed this with the 2004 masterpiece, Funeral, and The Strokes did it three years earlier with, Is This It, the real destructive masterpiece of the decade came in 2009 with Hospice. There isn’t an album released with the same amount of critical acclaim to tears ratio in my lifetime, with the only other contender being Diamond Mine by King Creosote and Jon Hopkins.
Fans of these Brooklyn indie-rockers have been waiting for a release that can compare to Hospice, but the band has taken a different direction over the past few years. With the 2011 release, Burst Apart, the band was showcasing their side as tight-knit members of a traditional indie rock band. Although it was solid, it was forgettable for the most part. Then an EP came providing fan with a side as a clean cut, jazzy, atmospheric dream-pop group using silence as their best tool. It was until now that we see a completely different side to the band.
Familiars is a terrible name for an album. It was a horrible choice because when a band decides to take a different stance on a winning method of sound, then title an album “familiars”, it throws off listeners. But what The Antlers due similarly is grasp the understanding of sadness and put it into a realm of no other. Familiars is their darkest, dreariest album released in other ways than before, due to the overall feelings released while tackling the album. I questioned by existence about 6 times during the opener, “Palace”, alone, which isn’t exactly different from other Antlers.
Like Undersea, an EP from the band released two years ago, this album is remarkable slower. Bringing back themes from Tim Buckley’s Happy Sad, it has everything from solemn horns, to syncopated drum beats with well placed jazzy piano keys. It tries to capture the dream-pop sound and convey it into a unique album. Vocally, this release is extremely strong. Peter Silberman’s falsettos are clearer than ever and they’ve been a highlight throughout The Antlers entire career. “Hotel” is a prime example of how masterful the band is of playing off each other using techniques they’ve never tried in the past. Getting a horn section to climb overtop the already massive landscape of noise is the cherry on top of a song that already is knees deep in depth. The entire album follows this structure, with many diverse sections to each song. There could be, for example, a sweet guitar riff that happens exactly once, but then it might be repeated later by horns, but because there’s already a strong drum beat and clear-cut singing, it’s lost underneath.
Normally this is a negative aspect to an album, but because this album is very easy to listen to at any time of the day with any emotional state, the draw to re-listen is extremely high. It’s a very familiar album in many ways to Destroyer’s epic, Kaputt, because of the content and nostalgic themes presented throughout a listen. “Stat” is a song thats forgettable from the get-go, but after a few enjoyable listens, I began to pick apart and remember the many parts I loved. Not to mention the opener, “Palace”, is the saddest, most internally wrenching song released since “Epilogue”. Any Antler fans will know exactly what I’m talking about.
As a whole, this album is very pleasant, but on a deeper level it’s damn heart-breaking. Don’t get caught up in all the la-di-da of the slow song tempos and nostalgic interplay between instruments. Familiars is meant to trick you. When the time comes when the eyes require some tears, throw on Familiars and just listen. It’ll happen. Silberman is a man who conveys many emotions out of a listener, and when you reach “Intruders”, the salty waterfalls will subconsciously happen. I guarantee this with my life.
Familiars is to be released June 16 on ANTI- in the US, and Transgressive Records in the UK