I sat down today to write about The Antlers. I put on headphones and turned on their critically acclaimed, potential-masterpiece Hospice. After zoning out and listening for a bit I noticed what was on TV in the other room. Today is September 11th, the 10th anniversary of one of the most heart breaking events in American history. Hospice starts with vibrant church bells, soft guitars, and hallowing depression. The visual of utter pain and emotional despair synched with The Antlers. I don’t mean to compare The Antlers with 9/11; I’m just saying their music could go well over video clips of human suffering, at least the songs off of Hospice.
But after the success of Hospice they were being labeled depressing when the people behind the music weren’t actually sad people. Their newest album Burst Apart is more rooted in conventional songwriting but still holds true to The Antlers sound. It is dark and holds onto the sadder side of the emotional spectrum but the band is less interested in telling a story and more interested in writing good songs. They get down and are willing to rock harder than their earlier releases. Burst Apart is shorter, running at 41 minutes, which also points to its accessibility. They express the pain but show signs of peace, especially on “Putting The Dog To Sleep” when he sings “Put your trust in me/I’m not going to die alone” to a repetitive eerie tone.
I had heard their set from Sasquatch featured only new material so I was expecting a very heavy Burst Apart set. Antlers did play more new songs than old but they did not shy away from Hospice material. They opened with “Parentheses” from their new record but then played “Kettering” from Hospice, continuing this the whole set, creating a careful balance of both albums. In a sense they built the set like an Explosions in the Sky song; starting slow and ambient, building up until there was an epic climax. At one point they set the tone with “Atrophy” creating an aroma of tranquility and then played “Rolled Together” sending the audience soaring over a lush landscape before crumbling the room with the rock-out “Every Night My Teeth Are Falling Out”. They really shined on “I Don’t Want Love” when the lead singer’s falsetto would echo across the room and you could quietly sing along to the chorus.
The only negative part about the show was that the encore lacked the same energy as the earlier parts of the set. The last songs were the beautiful “Sylvia,” the new “Corsicana” and the epic “Wake”. On paper it sounds like a fantastic way to end the show but there was something off about it tonight. The crowd didn’t seem psyched on the last songs and they seemed kind of distracted. It was getting late and Seattle’s coffee high has run its course by 12:30. The Antlers songs demand emotion; it is an active connection between the room and the music, so when the room gets tired the emotion isn’t as strong.