Sep 04, 2009 Web Exclusive
While it may not be the only way, one manner in which great songs are created is necessity. In other words, the songwriter is compelled to write a song or songs, not by their record company or market forces, but inspired by a new love or heartbreak, or sometimes tragedy. Peter Silberman's songs that populate The Antler's Hospice are just such a batch.
Hospice can be regarded as the proper debut of The Antlers, as drummer Michael Lerner and multi-instrumentalist Darby Cicci joined what had been Silberman's solo project over the course of four previous releases. The record started life as another of these solo projects, but it is hard to imagine Hospice gaining the life it has been accorded without the nearly epic scope that the full-band dynamic provides.
Silberman has spent many interviews since Hospice's initial small release deflecting questions regarding which parts of the record's story arc are fictitious, and which stem from reality. It is a fairly natural curiosity about a record so intense, and so intensely sad. It is not the average 23-year-old who would undertake a project about death and loss, and it results in a record that rises above specificity to speak to these universal themes.
"Kettering" opens with Silberman's Jeff Buckley-like quavering, announcing his and the record's intentions with a devastating first verse. This song—and much of the rest of the record—employs the quiet-loud-quiet dynamic in a vital and not at all derivative manner. The palpable pain of the deceptively bouncy "Two" employs the aforementioned shift with the sense that the desolation in Silberman's voice and subject matter simply burst out of the confines of a simple strum to its inescapable epic crescendo.
It isn't easy to hear Silberman populate the self-explanatory "Shiva," or the truly epic "Wake" with such sadness and loss. In fact, it hurts. It not only makes us hurt for Silberman, but it hurts in the manner that a lot of great music makes us hurt. Perhaps a large part of Silberman's reluctance to be specific about his subject matter is exactly so that we, the audience, may experience the hurt in our own unique way. Silberman's compulsion to write these songs may have been cathartic for him, but listening to them is most certainly cathartic for all of us. (www.antlersmusic.com)
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