The Antlers: Burst Apart (French Kiss)

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The Antlers: Hounds
The Antlers: Burst Apart (French Kiss)

The previous album by New York's Antlers -- Hospice, reviewed here -- was so impressive musically and in its conceptual ambition I'm at a loss to know why I didn't include in the Best of Elsewhere 2010 list. More fool me.

It wouldn't have been to everyone's taste as I noted, but my final line about singer/guitarist/writer Peter Silberman ("a major talent emerging") is confirmed by this elegant, poised, intimate yet soaring, and deftly dynamic album which manages to be oblique pop while still arching towards the outer limits of sonic experiment.

Let's just tick off the references other reviewers have made to helfully stake out the territory: Bon Iver (the new album not For Emma), Flaming Lips (at their most gorgeously psychedelic), Sigur Ros (aural landscaping) and Arcade Fire (sense of grandeur and dynamics).

To that list we might add Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark (at their most swooningly romantic on the track French Exit), a touch of Radiohead (in the shift towards electronica) and Talk Talk's Spirit of Eden fragility.

There is a dreamlike quality to this music -- the sensitively deployed synths and electric piano -- which matches these lyrics which seem to either suggest, or are drawn from, nocturnal thoughts.

The opener says "I don't want love" yet the slow ballad tempo undercut by a gentle keyboard in places and Silberman's strong falsetto delivery would suggest otherwise. It's 10cc's I'm Not in Love for indie.rockers with lightly disturbing effects.

And everywhere odd lyrics ("every night my teeth are falling out", check your Dictionary of Dream Imagery for that one) are married to melodies which draw you in, and Silberman's confidence in taking you to the edge of reason.

There is grit in these sometimes disturbing songs (Parenthesis with its scuffed guitar stuttr and eerie synth lines cutting through) but equally there is a weightlessness (Rolled Together, the ambient pivot of Tip Toe in centre followed by gravity defying ballad Hounds and Corsicana) which is so assured you know the Antlers aren't going to take an easy path into your affections.

Putting the Dog to Sleep is fraught mood-breaker as it strains for effect, but for the most part this is an entrancing, multi-layered album which might have reference points in those bands named but exists entirely in a world of it own imagining. 

The cover is of a dense copse with light at the end of a tunnel. That's about right. 

How good is it?

You can guess what list it will be come year's end too.

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