By Julia Reidy
Pete Silberman’s warbling voice exposes a beautiful but
deep-rooted anger throughout Hospice,
the breakthrough full-length from Brooklyn’s The Antlers. After a wildly successful self-release earlier in
the year, the record is getting a proper reissue August 18 via Frenchkiss
records, home of other heavyweights like Les Savy Fav, Passion Pit, The Hold
Steady and The Dodos.
It’ll give a wider audience the chance to experience the
band’s exploration of the idea of having an abusive loved one in hospice
care — of having to be kind at the end of their life, but being beaten down
emotionally by them all the same. Silberman speaks of screaming and cursing and
apologizing, of fictions, of pushing someone to wake them up, very literally of
hospitals (“Epilogue”). His voice cracks with intensity from whispering in a
lower register into tortured, strained falsetto at various points;
instrumentation ranges from simple four-chord acoustic guitar to huge, piano-driven
anthems to electronic ambient swaths that shimmer against each other, all
dissonant and pretty.
The record’s 10 tracks serve as individual pieces of the
story, making it almost more of a rock opera than a collection of songs. Though
the concept album aspect of it can get a little heavy-handed at times, it’s
explored so competently and gorgeously that the overly obvious bits are easy to
overlook. “Sylvia,” an epic the likes of which Coldplay never dreamed, features
a horn refrain backed by a noise collage that recalls an airplane leaving a
runway. Indeed, several moments on the album sound as if they might take flight
But it’s the transitions that pack Hospice’s real emotional punch. “Bear” changes from a repetitive,
nostalgic ditty to a suddenly triumphant rock song, hopeful and upbeat.
Likewise, “Wake” shifts from a choral eulogy in which you can hear the
collective intake of breath to an organ and snare drum howl. And “Epilogue”
concludes the album with a folk lament that blossoms startlingly into a clear
electric melody that cuts through everything we’ve heard before, an awful
bittersweet end that fades away — like life, we’re to understand — almost as soon
as it appears.