[DARK INDIE/SLOWCORE] The Antlers – Familiars (Album Review)

[DARK INDIE/SLOWCORE] The Antlers – Familiars (Album Review)

[DARK INDIE/SLOWCORE] The Antlers – Familiars (Album Review)



The Antlers surprise us with every release, showing above all how much devastatingly beautiful diversity is possible within a relatively constrained stylistic range. Their break from 2009’s lo-fi dark-indie Hospice to 2011’s orchestral, atmospheric Burst Apart was greater than their latest shift to Familiars, but departs lyrically, instrumentally, and sonically in ways that expand the sphere of possibility of post-millennial indie. Throughout their entire (now) 5-album discography, The Antlers have always incorporated elements that defy straightforward pop aesthetes. This is something they do profoundly well, keeping listeners at arm’s length yet attached with a kryptonite chain. Those non-traditional song structures – why and how do you so deftly abandon choruses!? Those disproportionately prominent horns – what made you think that would be a good idea, and why are they so soothing!? Your utter refusal to sing about happy things – ok, well, I’m actually totally cool with that.

Upon my first listen of single numero uno from Familiars, I didn’t expect the album to wake me up every dawn after I listened to it. It literally spins like on the turntable of my brain, a track a night, on automatic repeat. The album plays primarily to The Antlers’s strengths: chilled-out mid-range tempo, good both for singing and for calming (it’s not party music), and rich, post-shoegaze texture (far less densely woven than Burst Apart, but still more than the majority of the 2-dimensional bands out there). And just now, no less than listen-through #10, they still manage to surprise me here and there – the subtle keys on “Parade,” or the brilliant progression of the album as a whole. As much as any of the tracks can stand on their own, they stick together in album format just as well, and that’s quite a feat these days.

But hold the phone – I haven’t even gotten to their lyricism, which, despite what I’be already said, is really what sets this album apart from anything else you’ll hear for a long while. These are cryptic lyrics that on first – all the way through 12th – listen seem to make about as much sense as poking someone on Facebook. The phrases make sense as strings of words, but don’t come together to form a coherent picture. Take the opening lines from track 7, “Parade”:

“Right when the blizzard ends,
They throw a fucking huge parade
A great excuse for celebration of the mess they’ve made”.

Wait, who did what? When they do coalesce into an intelligible story, they border on about-to-snap pent-up frustration, like

In the hotel, I can’t remember how the past felt
I rent a blank room to stop living in my past self
Fuck now, I’m outta here tomorrow

or the sublimely creepy…

I let them strip your mausoleum
So nothing was left
But they forgot to close the casket…
They sent you shivering to my doorstep
Gently clawing at my window when I was less than awake.

Leave it to The Antlers to wrap suffocating, claustrophobic, and cathartic lyrics in coats of satin melodies. And to grow ever-so-slightly, not losing their unique touch but still showing us what is still undiscovered in music. They show this best on “Hotel,” “Intruders,” — on second thought, I’ll stop here and just suggest you listen to them all. Funniest part about this band is that we can’t get too used to the new sound because they’ll likely change it up again on the next album.

Check out a stream of their album below, but also follow The Antlers on Soundcloud, Facebook, and buy their album here.

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hVS2-HsPqPo]

Palace – 5:38
Doppelgänger – 7:05
Hotel – 5:01
Intruders– 5:25
Director– 6:14
Revisted– 7:42
Parade– 5:12
Surrender– 6:16
Refuge– 4:57


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