Hospice is the 3rd album released by The Antlers. It came out in 2009, and I think I bought it sometime in early 2010 because it was pretty new. I found The Antlers on The Last Broadcast, as I have with many more bands I follow. I didn’t know much about them as a whole, or their background. I just knew “Silvia” was a good tune. So, it was only when I bought the album that I heard their full sound, what they were about. The alt rock, dark dream pop immediately drew me in because I hadn’t really heard anything like them before. Peter Silberman’s incredible voice, ranging from the highs of “Two” to the lows of “Atrophy” caught me because he sounded like someone who was genuinely living each word he sang.
The story of Hospice is one of a hospice worker and a patient suffering from cancer. From the “Prologue” to the “Epilogue”, the tracks describe the battles, the fights, the emotional struggles and the feeling of being useless in helping someone you love.
With “Sylvia“, I think he uses her (Sylvia Plath) as a case study to describe the character he was developing in the album. She fits the role of being someone the worker was possibly trying to save, despite being helpless in doing so. Sylvia Plath’s life itself was filled with instances of people trying to help and failing, the numerous suicide attempts and hospitalisations, recoveries and lapses. So, Silbermann may have seen her as a muse to write the material.
Atrophy is one of the stand out songs on the album for me, I love the lyrics and the growing sound that illustrates how he feels he’s losing it and being controlled.
“In your dreams I’m a criminal, horrible, sleeping around
While you’re awake I’m impossible, constantly letting you down.”
The small passage that follows after you think the song is over is simply beautiful. He describes his worry and how helpless he is as the woman “expires”. When listening to the album you feel he’s really using a personal experience, something which he maybe felt easier to sing than say. Who he was talking about, he doesn’t say.
Also, of course, two excellent tracks on the record are “Bear“ and “Two“. Brilliant lyrics where they don’t hold back “Daddy was an asshole, he fucked you up, built the gears in your head, now he greases them up”, are lyrics used in “Two“ as the story describes how the two are at constant war, how he tries to help despite being blamed for everything and that he’s sorry for how things turned out. “Bear“ is a catchy little tune with some bellowing sax. Its probably the “nicest” song on the album because its more chirpy and offers a break from the general sound of the album.
It was with this album that people really took notice of The Antlers, both critic and fans alike. I highly recommend picking up a copy because it will create a new genre on your shelf, somewhere between Damien Rice and Beach House, or maybe dark Best Coast material. Either way, buy it.