The Antlers, who played on the UC Berkeley campus on Cal Day 2013, have progressed as a band at a pace that is undoubtedly unhurried, but they have managed to carve a niche within the indie-rock world using their personal sound — passionate vocals, literature-esque lyrics and instrumental texture. With the addition of their new album, Familiars, they have procured a status as a band distinct from its peers, consistently produced satisfying works.
Familiars contains a mere nine tracks; however nearly all of the tracks register past the five-minute mark. The album boasts stunning instrumentals. Though melancholic in certain tracks and slightly more optimistic in others, The Antlers’ sound is always deliberate and never rushed. The vocals of lead singer Peter Silberman continue to synchronize perfectly with the tempo and melody of the songs which elicit powerful emotional responses from the listener.
Silberman deals with a common theme filled with vivid symbolism and imagery throughout Familiars, as he has done in previous albums; he equated love lost to having cancer in Hospice (2009), and then conceptualized sexual frustration into car crashes and teeth falling out in Burst Apart (2011). This time, Silberman addresses the disconnect between his past and current selves: “When you lift me out of me will I know when I’ve changed?” (“Refuge”), “Can you hear me when I’m trapped behind the mirror” (“Doppelgänger”).
In “Intruders,” an emotional high point in the album, the band weaves an enchanting loop of spacious percussion beats and patient guitar riffs mixed with occasional horn and keyboard sounds littered throughout the track. The slowness of the song and its subject matter belie the atmosphere that the song creates; “Intruders” is hopeful — almost naive — rather than dark and pessimistic.
Due to the lack of uptempo tracks, Familiars requires a certain patience while listening, but with the gorgeous instrumental arrangements and Silberman’s soft vocals, the album creates a warm ambiance that is sonically pleasing without being overworked.
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