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Album Review

by The Antlers


Review Date
15th March 2010
Reviewed by
Gareth Meade

Emotional manipulation is a prevalent aspect of art, demanding an engagement between an audience and a particular piece of work. We see it on film and television, whereby we develop relationships with completely fictitious characters whose fortunes are at the mercy of a savvy bunch of individuals who want to retain your attention. To imply that there is anything manipulative about the emotional tour-de-force that is Hospice by The Antlers isn’t quite right however, due to the negative connotation of being controlled. But certainly the degree to which you immerse yourself in and subsequently empathise with the narrative of Hospice is almost certainly going to determine the degree to which you enjoy it.

Just which way that pendulum swings isn’t predetermined however. While this is an album about a terminally ill patient and the carer who falls in love with her, some may find that level of storytelling a welcome antidote to the often shallow nature of popular music. Others may find it a difficult balancing act, whereby an astonishingly beautiful, imaginative and convincing album, that is begging to be listened too, becomes a heavy burden to bear. This is, after all, no Tuesdays with Morrie.

If you fall into the former camp, it would be difficult not to listen to Hospice from Prologue to Epilogue, lest it be like skipping to different chapters of a novel. The latter group may find themselves drawn to the more concise and lyrically opaque material such as "Bear" or "Sylvia" which bursts to life much like a song by The Walkmen might. In fact that might be one of the few references you’ll be able to place throughout the album, apart from lead singer and founding member Peter Silberman’s fragile, Jeff Buckley-esque falsetto. However you choose to approach Hospice though, you’ll find it difficult not to be drawn into its oscillating ascension.

Ultimately, the album benefits most from the less that is said about it. Everyone who listens to it is likely to have a different experience (albeit within the spectrum of emotional burden or empathy) that it’s too hard to tell you what to expect. My experience bordered on the exhausting, but completely absorbed. Hospice is not for the faint of heart, but is definitely for those who demand more from music than something to have on in the background. It’s art at its most engaging.

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