2009’s Hospice was a truly incredible achievement, a concept album surrounding death that at times was tragic and downbeat yet remained wilfully optimistic and indeed full of hope. Now New York’s The Antlers return with the follow-up Burst Apart, an album that was self-recorded and produced over five months in their own studio in Bushwick. Whereas Hospice was a complete record best listened to in its entirety to get the most out of it, it will be intriguing to see if the trio have followed the same successful formula this time around or if they’ve gone for a new direction.

The fascinatingly-titled ‘I Don’t Want Love’ opens the album with dreamy piano lines, absorbing effects and Peter Silberman’s trademark heartbreaking falsetto as he sings: “If I see you again, desperate and stoned”. There is more of a soulful undercurrent than previous material and this is just a glimpse of what is to come. The song ends with Silberman howling, also to become a trademark of the album. ‘French Exit’ retains the soul atmospherics but with a more bass-driven start alongside some huge sounding keyboards that progress into feedback-driven frenzy. Also present is the sense of isolation the band always capture so well, and lyrics that are both melancholic, personal and self-depreciating: “Every time we speak, you are spitting in my mouth”. Silberman then attempts to reach his highest notes on the industrial-sounding ‘Parentheses’ – a song that gives off a feeling of awkwardness and tension, but is impossible to ignore. A harsh mixture of austere drums and abrasive noises, it does a great job of feeling you with a sense of a dread.

Harmonies are still a big part of The Antlers’ sound, no matter which direction they turn in – they work equally as well when they delve into Nick Cave atmospherics as they do on the more straightforward tracks like ‘Every Night My Teeth Are Falling Out’ - a pop song in the vein of Cold War Kids or Radiohead at their most uncomplicated. However, they still experiment even on this song, with the hysterical ending showing a sense of urgency few bands possess. Followed up by the held-back jazz tones of the aptly-named ‘Tiptoe’, the album veers from disturbing and troubling to gentle and comforting in a cohesive fashion. ‘Hounds’ would be the showpiece of any other album, with its warming and full sound that takes in everything from delays and glitches to an all-too perfect soaring brass ending. But even this is eclipsed by the ambitious and grand finale of ‘Putting The Dog To Sleep’, a song that is so attention-grabbing in its scale. It takes in everything from waltz-like guitars to a colossal post-rock conclusion, while Silberman sings in his slightly unhinged and broken vocals: “I’m not gonna die alone, put your arm on my collarbone, open the door, don’t lie to me, if you’re putting the dog to sleep”. It is the one song on the album that really wows you on the first listen. That’s not to say the others are not worthy of your attention, they’re just not as immediate. After a few repeated listens, the rest of the album will ‘click’ and you’ll realise just how worthwhile and rewarding it is. A worthy successor to Hospice.

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