Thursday, March 04, 2010

Just came back from The Antlers' gig at the amazingly beautiful Union Chapel. I bought a ticket to the concert purely on the strength of Two, a tune I first heard from Mojo's New Harvest compilation, and which just sounded so wonderful with Peter Silberman's breathy, earnest vocals and the band's acoustic guitar combining to make an utterly gorgeous tune. It sounded even better in a live environment, and, I'll confess, was one of two songs through which I managed to stay awake in their entirety.

Two isn't just a song. It's a story of a whole relationship, starting from the prognosis of the woman, going to her back-story to the eventual breakdown of the relationship between the two. Both the melody and the lyrics are incredibly well-written. Take, for example, just one verse:
Tell me when you think that we became so unhappy / wearing silver rings with nobody clapping / When we moved here together we were so disappointed / sleeping out of tune with our dreams disjointed / It killed me to see you getting always rejected / but I didn't mind the things you threw, the phones I deflected / I didn't mind you blaming me for your mistakes / I just held you in the door frame through all of the earthquakes / But you packed up your clothes in that bag every night / and I would try to grab your ankles (what a pitiful sight) / But after over a year, I stopped trying to stop you / From stomping out that door / coming back like you always do. Well no one's gonna fix it for us, no one can / You say that, 'No one's gonna listen, and no one understands.'
So there's no open doors and there's no way to get through / There's no other witnesses, just us two. 
Just to clarify that my falling asleep during some of the other songs shouldn't be taken as an indicator that they weren't good. No, quite the opposite. They were fantastic. Sylvia, Bear and Epilogue were definitely highlights of the night on top of Two. However, I've been ill with a bad case of the flu since the beginning of last week, and, in a dark environment that is Union Chapel, coupled with the shoegazer-esque nature of some of their songs, well... you get the drift.

I'm fairly certain that the setlist consisted of all of the songs off of their most recent album Hospice, considered by more than a few to be one of the albums of 2009. Prior to the show, I had no idea that Hospice was a concept album, with each song telling the story of the doomed relationship between a hospice worker and a terminal cancer woman/child. It sounds incredibly pretentious written down, but the Antlers have executed it flawlessly and each and every song is just simply wonderful. Maybe it's because it's not merely a concept, but is grounded in reality, based partly on Peter's own experience of a relationship with someone who was abusive. And maybe because it's so personal that's why each and every song retains a sense of intimacy even when the music explodes as Peter simply pours his heart into every tune.

In spite of how grim the theme of the album sounds, there's just something about the band's musical style that made their music ideal to be played in a church. It's by no means boring. Peter's voice sounds different on every song, sometimes hushed, sometimes screaming, sometimes reverential... it's just as much an instrument as Darby Cicci's keyboard and Michael Learner's drums.

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