This was albums of the year week. When I stacked up my 2011 records, I found I only had 15 to choose from and when I weighed them against each other, divining for the collection that had given me the most succour, the most pleasure, the most warmth, it came down to a choice of two, Bill Callahan’s ‘Apolcalypse’ and The Antlers’ ‘Burst Apart’. From a short field, they have been to two I’ve reached for consistently in all circumstances, and they’ve formed the backbone of the soundtrack to the second half of the year.
Bill had his moment back in Round 5, but I was able to sneak in ‘One Fine Morning’ as one of my tracks of the year under the guise of a pub quiz question (Q: What does Bill Callahan do on this track that no-one in rock history has ever, to my knowledge, done before? A: He sings the album’s catalogue track, rather beautifully), so I played The Antlers record which neither Tom or Nick had heard before.
It’s a beguiling album. Without the immediate emotional punch of it’s predecessor, the devastating ‘Hospice’, ‘Burst Apart’ had a tendency to drift by during early listens, but the more time i’ve spent with it, the more it has revealed its treasure. It’s a gorgeous, warm and rich collection, interweaving meticulous playing and arrangements with Peter Silberman’s icy, aching voice, which drifts through the steam like a ghost. It dawned on me recently that in both its precision and its restraint, ‘Burst Apart’ is cousin to Wild Baasts’ ‘Smother’, another favourite of the past year, but where lyrically Wild Beasts sound academic, The Antlers are raw and direct.
The delectable tumble of ‘Rolled Together’, the angelic ‘Hounds’, the yearning, heartbreaking ‘Corsicana’ and the brutally simple, staccato stab to the heart of ‘Putting The Dog To Sleep’ have drifted and swooned and billowed around my head for the past 6 months. Irresistible, transcendental, unshakeable.
Nick listened: I loved this. Or, rather, I found this completely beguiling and to my tastes immediately, and so bought a copy forthwith, and have been listening to it intensely ever since, and love it now. I wish I’d heard it earlier in the year – it would easily have cemented a position in my top ten for 2011 (whatever that means). It’s an incredibly well balanced album, finding the sweet spot between melody and groove, obviousness and obfuscation, that presses all my buttons. Em had mentioned that she’d listened to Antlers via their website a couple of months ago and liked them – I wish she’d been more effusive, or else taken the plunge and bought it, because it took until Rob played it for me to sit up and take any notice. Probably my favourite record I’ve bought as a result of hearing at DRC.
Tom Listened: When introducing this to us, Rob suggested that at first this may leave us feeling underwhelmed. Not a bit of it. I thought that Burst Apart sounded great on first listen, packed as it is with ideas, pathos and sweet, sweet melodies. I liked the fact that, unlike its predecessor Hospice, Burst Apart had range and textural variety so that it didn’t seem anything like as unremittingly bleak. Whilst there are those who may suggest that this would lessen its impact, I found it much more palatable on first listen and I suspect that I would go on to prefer the latter album over time. And whilst The Antlers don’t really go far from the archetypal ‘sadsong’ indie template, Pete Silberman’s exquisite voice, full of vulnerability and experience, lifts the music out of the ordinary. Nice choice Rob….but Apocalypse is better!