Indie pop joins the new age

Hospice, the sophomore album by Brooklyn trio the Antlers, begins as a pleasantly innocuous post-rock album, with soothing washes of synthesizer and distant guitar. The first four tracks are undeniably pretty, but they pass by on a wave of new age passivity, never making much of an impact. Even the pounding drums of “Sylvia” get lost in a swirl of ambiance, its vocals similarly buried in echo and reverb.

Things suddenly turn around on track five, with the focused, lyrical “Bear.” Beginning with lullaby keyboards and Peter Silberman’s quiet, half-whispered vocals, the song soon explodes into a singable chorus of “We’re not old at all.” With an almost-danceable beat and strummed guitar, its poppy accessibility is a marked departure from the rest of the album. “Two,” which follows two tracks later, ups the ante with insistent acoustic guitar chords and a triumphant vocal melody that resembles the emotive grandiosity of Arcade Fire. (Funnily enough, it also sounds a little like “Afternoon Delight.”) It’s the kind of song that could have been written any time in the last 40 years, and its timelessness is given added impact by contrast to the rest of the album.

Hospice returns to light-hitting dream pop for its final three tracks, closing with “Epilogue,” a moody ballad that shows off Silberman’s impressive falsetto. Its a haunting way to finish, but its the memory of “Two” that lingers after the album has ended. Based on the evidence here, the Antlers would be better served to favour immediacy over atmosphere more often.

The Antlers self-released Hospice in March of this year. It will be reissued on August 18 via Frenchkiss.
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