The Antler’s Myspace
Often, a musical work’s concept can overwhelm its content. Take Bon Iver: critics fell hard for the artist’s story — composer Justin Vernon’s hibernation in the woods of Wisconsin to meditate and create groovy tunes — until his journey and his music became inextricably linked. The correlation was both a gift and curse, unfairly tying Vernon’s voice and music to feelings of isolation and desperation.
Similarly, Peter Silberman, vocalist and guitarist behind the up-and-coming band The Antlers, wrote much of his sophomore album Hospice in two years of isolation from friends and family. Once emerging, Silberman recruited a full band to bring his idea to life.
Hospice is a post-rock masterpiece, a concept album of both complex metaphors and simplistic narration. Its scope is both nostalgic and heartbreaking: the album tells the story of a man watching his loved one pass away from bone cancer in the Sloan Kettering Cancer Ward. Hospice is told from the woman’s bedside, accentuating the narrator’s grief and mourning. The setting alternates between deep, brooding tracks in the hospital and more upbeat, instrumentally-diverse songs that take place in flashback. The result is an album which is immediate and catchy, yet tonally eerie and sparse.
The opening track “Prologue” transitions into “Kettering,” which explicitly narrates the basic plotline -— a man has become a resident of the hospital ward where his hopelessly dying love lies.
“Bear” stands out as a dark and lyrically powerful character arc about two lovers choosing to abort their child. Silberman’s choice to combine the album’s most hauntingly beautiful reverberated guitars with its most depressing content illustrates his notions on the duality of love and hope versus fear and reality.
Undoubtedly fans and critics alike will question the story: Who are these mysterious characters? Is this a true story? Was Silberman the true narrator? The real question, however, should be: With music this beautiful, does it really matter?