ALBUM REVIEW: The Antlers, Familiars
How can you tell that a band is growing up? I promise this isn’t a dumb joke where the punch line is “they start getting AARP letters.” To me, it’s the use of negative space – embracing the idea that silence can be just as much of an instrument as anything turned up to 11. Why do you think Springsteen’s “I’m On Fire” is widely considered one of his greatest songs? It’s all about restraint as a show of force.
So by that metric, The Antlers must be mature as all get out. Their June release Familiars is less guitar-driven than their past work; there’s room to breathe. Even the song titles (single words, as with their 2009 offering Hospice) tell just enough of the story to make you press repeat. But don’t mistake their breathy sonic cosmos for a lack of complexity – drummer Michael Lerner adds texture by giving his many rhythmic tools all a shot, similarly to the infamous Kings of Leon tune “I Want You.” Darby Cicci works overtime playing not just Beirut-tinted trumpet, but bass, keyboards, and synths, which range from swirling spaceship to Sunday church. And Vocalist Peter Silberman is no stranger to diverse instrumentation, pairing his powerfully conservative vocals with heavily reverbed, slightly jazzy guitar work.
This record is full of regret and hard-earned advice given to a blurry audience, culled from lonely years on the road. Take “Hotel”: “When I check out / It won’t matter how my name’s spelled / Cause when you pass through / You only keep what you can’t sell” croon-wails Silberman, whose sexy, mournful falsetto gives the songs just the right touch of wintry soul. The stilted piano “Doppelgänger” has a fun house effect, only strengthened with the mirroring of Z-era My Morning Jacket “ooh”-ing. “Surrender” sounds like a super mega chill Vampire Weekend. “Refuge” sounds like a slightly less sad Shy Girls. Pretty much all of the songs borrow from the xx. You get the idea – these Brooklyn boys have perfectly captured a lazy, weary Manhattan afternoon. The genius of these hooks is not in their Top 40 brashness, but in their subtlety; instead of boring the listener after spin #4, they get settled in and truly stick.
The Antlers will perform at 9:30 Club on July 25.