High-flown, emotional concept: check. Wailing, earnest vocals:
check. Literary references: check. Buzz from Pitchfork and NPR: check.
Yup, the Antlers’ Hospice is as indie-rock cognoscenti-friendly
as Arcade Fire’s debut, and shares many of its main ingredients. Yet
this Brooklyn band’s debut full-length makes for a decidedly uneasy
listen next to the comparatively sunny Funeral.
Hospice is an infirmary and a psych ward, and the band’s
sonic dynamics do well to simulate those environments. Hushed promises
and pleadings give way to bitter demands, give way to brass fanfares
and tuneful feedback. Let me take your temperature, Peter
Silberman bleats insistently over a slab of chugging guitars in the
anxious sickbed ballad “Sylvia.” It sounds like a last request made in
the throes of a panic attack. That’s fitting — there’s somebody
dying of cancer here.
Hospice is a protracted public mourning for somebody who’s
dying, not dead, and the narrator is at a loss as to how to ease the
pain — the patient’s and his own. The music doesn’t forget this:
Even the moments of beauty and reconciliation are plaintive, or bitter,
or full of regret — to the very end. Take this line from
“Epilogue,” the final track and one of the album’s tamest: You’re
screaming and cursing and angry and hurting me and then smiling and
crying and apologizing. By the time Silberman sings these words, if
you’ve been listening, you’re exhausted. (Frenchkiss)