the antlers – familiars

when the antlers released burst apart three years ago, it was clear that the album constituted a make-it-or-break it scenario for the band; their 2009 album hospice, the brooklyn trio’s debut effort as a collaborative project, received immediate, almost unanimous universal acclaim and catapulted the antlers into the indie spotlight.  luckily, burst apart was a suitable follow-up and a substantial success in its own right, but frontman peter silberman still finds himself confronted with inquiries about hospice, more than five years after the album’s release.  although there are those who still can’t let go of the past, silberman certainly isn’t one of them.  the antlers’ newest effort, familiars, is a lush musical experience that all but abandons the outfit’s signature heartbreak.

while silberman is the face and the voice of the antlers (after all, it was his initial solo project and his emotive metaphor that began to turn heads), familiars is an environment that finds all three members contributing equally.  a large portion of musical direction seems to come from darby cicci, the multi-instrumentalist responsible for much of the texture on the album.  previously confined to a primary role of keyboardist and an explicit secondary exploration of trumpet, cicci has full reign on familiars; many songs have a foundation of acoustic piano, layered trumpet, and michael lerner’s drums, further augmented by extremely prominent bass lines (also courtesy of cicci) that slither throughout the chord progressions and give the antlers’ sonic palate a more organic low end.

instead of silberman’s guitar largely defining the album like it did on hospice and, to a lesser extent, on burst apart, the instrument has the chordal support of the piano and the occasional melodic support of the trumpet, making the moments where it truly separates from the texture that much more meaningful.  take “director,” the album’s centerpiece, for example: although the ostinato guitar riff is arguably a staple of the song, the instrument doesn’t really begin to take control until the descending riff and subsequent counter-melody kick in halfway through.  underneath is that warm palate, full of drums and resonant bass that, although devoid of the trumpet in this particular instance, help the antlers firmly place a foot in the realm of jazz that has so long been an influence.

though a musical liberation of sorts for the antlers is present, silberman’s lyrical and vocal progressions are less discernible, relying even more so on subtle nuances.  his falsetto lamentations are still there, but silberman showcases a desire to return to his natural range, even dipping into lower, haunting extremes on “doppelganger.”  lyrically, he’s more of a wildcard; “hotel” is extremely sparse yet somewhat confessional, as silberman admits “i rent a blank room to stop living in my past self,” while “parade” traces a more narrative style and lacks any type of hook.  one constant that remains throughout is a sense of ambiguity, as silberman seems to strive less to attach an explicit meaning to each song and instead explore more inclusive, multi-dimensional emotions.

familiars is nearly an hour of slow-burning which may inevitably put listeners into two broad camps: those that dismiss the album due to a perceived sense of stagnancy and those that appreciate it for its nuances and painstaking attention to detail.  the latter of these two camps is the best lens through which to view this album.  the antlers continue to expound and expand an incredibly complex and dense aesthetic, and provide another body of work that demands to be addressed before the reminiscing can begin.

8.9/10

school of night – school of night

it’s been two years since the antlers’ last full-length album, but the time has passed quickly.  i had all of 2011 to digest burst apart, an album that fell short of the sheer emotive brilliance of hospice yet displayed an enormous growth of musicianship within the tight-knit trio.  the back half of 2012 was sprinkled with consistent listens to undersea, a masterful ep that hopefully foreshadows the material to come on the band’s next studio effort.  amidst all of the touring and recording, multi-instrumentalist darby cicci found time to write and record songs for his own project, school of night.  on his self-titled debut ep, cicci clearly displays his dedication to the antlers’ core aesthetic without really adding anything significant to the palate.

an aspect of school of night readily available to discuss is cicci’s voice; it’s a dead ringer for peter silberman’s natural tessitura, so much that it can trick the casual listener into thinking they’re listening to an antlers track that sounds vaguely familiar.  but while the antlers have time and again blended rock with electronic successfully, cicci chooses to focus only on the latter, creating a body of work that quickly begins to feel stagnant.  school of night eclipses the half-hour mark despite only being five songs long, an issue that proves crippling to the success of cicci’s goal.

a song like “fire escape” is fantastic on its own; slow-burning and incredibly dreamy, it’s reminiscent of a b-side on burst apart that never actually existed.  but when five tracks with an almost identical aesthetic are strung together, listening gets tiresome.  if, like me, you’re looking for some antlers material to tide you over until the next studio album drops, school of night isn’t a terrible choice.  i just wouldn’t recommend listening to the entire ep in one sitting.

5.7/10

listen to a new song from school of night

about a month ago, we were treated to the first single from the antlers’ keyboardist darby cicci, who records his own music under the moniker school of night.  today he’s shared another track off of his self-titled debut ep, out october 15th; this one’s called “fire escape,” and it’s a melancholy slow-burner that feels right at home next to burst apart-era antlers songs.  check it out below, courtesy of school of night’s soundcloud page.

listen to a new song from school of night

in addition to his duties as the antlers’ multi-instrumentalist, darby cicci has apparently been working on a side project of his own.  cicci goes by the moniker school of night, and will be releasing a self-titled ep on october 15th via minus green.  stereogum premiered the ep’s lead single, “lying,” earlier today.  check it out below.