In the wake of 2008’s Hospice, one of the great concept albums of the new millennia, Brooklyn trio The Antlers arrived at a fork in the road of their dreamy, melodramatic pop. Whereas ethereal vocals, dreamy, shoegaze synth and rhythmic percussion had/have followed the band through a handful of EPs and LPs, the key to that album’s rampant success was its prophetic storyline – that of a hospice worker falling into an emotionally abusive relationship with a terminally ill patient. Although the band has very publicly opted to go in a new direction, fans of Hospice will be happy to learn that Burst Apart is a similar sounding album; one with a storyline that is still relatable, just not in the same sense.
The common thread between the two is never quite so apparent as on Burst Apart‘s opener, a track that would have fit perfectly anywhere on its predecessor. In fact, the only makeable difference on “I Don’t Want To Love” is its setting – in this case, a New York loft instead of a New York hospice. As it unfolds, we see that the album carries a remarkably similar sentiment. It’s one which suggests Burst‘s protagonist waking up from the fantastical dream that was Hospice; a dream that extraordinarily, albeit symbolically relates his overall feelings about love. While “I Don’t Want to Love” perhaps best and most bluntly embodies this, the feeling is also deeply rooted in “French Exit” as well as in “Parentheses'” cries of, “I don’t owe you anything.”
While these thoughts consume Burst Apart‘s early minutes, the album later turns inward – lyrically dwelling on the protagonist’s insecurities on “Every Night My Teeth Fall Out” and complacency on “No Widows”. And while this review implies relatively little change instrumentally, The Antlers do well to shake a couple of things up. The further integration of and exploration with brass glazes “Tiptoe” with a chilling sort of jazz sound, for instance, whereas synth takes on more of a techno tone throughout.
With that in mind, the emphasis is ultimately on subject matter here. Burst‘s plotline starts strong and ends brilliantly, yes, although it wanes a bit in between. What’s more, the grounded storyline – relatively speaking – presents us with a sort of double-edged sword. While the ability to relate more closely endears us, it does so in a different and less romantic way than did Hospice. In the end, that fantasticality is dearly missed, but this new direction makes for optimism and a very admirable listen.
MP3 Stream: “Putting the Dog To Sleep”