The Antlers, Familiars – album review
The new longplayer from Brooklyn-based band, The Antlers is out. And its awesome. Familiars, their fifth studio album, sees the band further explore the emotionality and spirituality of love and humanity, with a palette of sounds that soar and retreat under a canopy of electronic trappings and the steady arrhythmic heartbeat of Lerner’s unnerving drumming.
For the uninitiated, The Antlers are a 3-piece indie rock band comprising vocalist/guitarist Peter Silberman, multi-instrumentalist Darby Cicci and drummer Michael Lerner. And listening to this record, it’s hard to grasp this, considering the amount of instrumentation and the complexity of the sound.
The first time I heard of The Antlers was Kettering on an emotionally draining episode of Chuck (they all are) in which Shaw is shot by Chuck and his heart is blown up. And that is probably an apt description of what I feel when listening to The Antlers. It’s powerful stuff that really gets at you and tugs at your heart strings. Frontman Peter SIlberman’s weightless, ethereal croon reaches right through your chest and into your heart, grabbing it and refusing to let go.
Their new album, Familiars, did initially take me slightly by surprise. It didn’t attack my emotional frailties as viciously as I thought it would. The music is more atmospheric, its ethereal quality highlighted by soaring vocal and piano melodies. Trumpets also feature much more heavily, its charming melodies taking the place previously occupied by heavy electric guitars and synths. And that drumming. That drumming leaves you equally entranced and breathless. I can’t say I necessarily prefer this, but it works. And more importantly, it makes sense.
It makes sense because this album feels like a step forward for the band, both musically and emotionally. There is an acceptance of the hollowness that the frailties and insecurities of love and humanity brings, and a move towards exploring and dealing with how these various elements simultaneously coexist and perpetuate within the self, and how best to deal with it. ‘You can’t unbreak our broken leases holding on to broken pieces, so return them. No guilt, no sorry speeches.’ And in this way it is an album filled with a greater sense of purpose and hope, if not necessarily more optimism. But it is definitely a sound that has evolved over their multiple albums, which has now culminated in what they describe as “a palpable release of despair”, a more hopeful album than its predecessors. Standout tracks include Palace, Hotel, Director and Refuge.
You’d be forgiven in thinking the whole album feels by-and-large the same. The songs don’t morph in quality from one to another. Instead, it feels like a complete and singular journey, an odyssey of sorts. Each song flows into the next, and the album charts the movement through space and time, emotion and mood. It is an album that has less of the emotional intensity of their past works, but more emotional vibrancy, highlighted by a lighter sound. And it feels like a big step forward for The Antlers. Where the self ‘Burst Apart’, it feels more complete now, a self recognisable as ‘Familiars’. This culminates in an album that proves that The Antlers is more than worthy of the praise they have received over the years.
Album review by Desmond Chan. The Antlers, Familiars is out now on POD via Inertia