After seven years, The Antlers — the indie-rock project of Brooklyn-based musician Peter Silberman — have returned with Green to Gold, the band’s simplest, most down tempo release to date. For some, it may come across as a turn away from the band’s strengths. But for a group previously defined by sprawling albums about terminal cancer and other stories of unforgiving emotional devastation, it’s a peaceful, appreciative and largely beautiful sound of relief.
On its latest, The Antlers no longer deal in operatic catharsis and distortion, but this is no surprise. The sound of the band’s music has been shifting across their last few albums; the shrill force of Hospice would become desolate ambiance on Burst Apart and space rock later on Familiars. In 2014, Silberman was diagnosed with tinnitus, hyperacusis and cochlear hydrops, cementing the sonic change as no longer gradual, but a necessity. As a result, Green to Gold is a quiet return from a band that took some much-needed time away.
Silberman describes Green to Gold as “Sunday morning music,” documenting the past two years of his life by pulling from conversations with friends and family. Written almost entirely in the morning hours, the album gently embraces the idea of gradual change, down to its very title. The instrumental “Strawflower” introduces this latest version of The Antlers — who sound radiant and unhurried — opening the album with a twinkling piano motif and comforting guitars that evoke the best work of older acts such as Talk Talk and Yo La Tengo. Natural light and fresh air seemingly flow out of its corners; field recordings of the crickets and cicadas around Silberman’s home fill otherwise empty space.
The songs across Green to Gold revolve around this spaciousness. Reinterpreting his range, Silberman approaches his breathy vocals with newfound tranquility as they enter the picture on the follow-up track “Wheels Roll Home.” Bolstered by subtle brass and shimmery sonic textures, the song retains a gentle sway as Silberman concedes to the swelling instrumental in the chorus. Similarly, the country-tinged twang of guitars and keys take the reins on “It Is What It Is,” where Silberman’s vocals highlight the album’s central theme, acknowledging what could’ve been while facing the present.
The Antlers are at their most sonically understated; despite the departure of longtime member and multi-instrumentalist Darby Cicci, the band has reconfigured their sparser sound to imbue what remains with a sense of wonder. “Volunteer” dazzles over its five-minute runtime, pulling beauty out of muted details like cascading brushed drums and a gradually building, flickering arrangement. Other songs such as the title track and “Porchlight” further paint a picture of The Antlers as a band with a newfound acceptance of age that is as graceful as the changing of the seasons.
Green to Gold is the sound of serenity, but it’s hard-won at that. Alongside all the warmth and wonder is an inescapable feeling of melancholy, arising from the sadness and pain at the root of Antlers’ past. “Solstice” vividly recalls summers from memory; the cooing of the chorus sounds as beautifully tragic as it does transcendent. “Just One Sec,” a conversation between two loved ones, can also be read as a dialogue Silberman has with himself, as he patiently requests, “Free me from your limiting ideas of me/ Free me from the version you prefer I’d be.”
There isn’t any one clear moment that rises above the rest on Green to Gold, no overwhelming intensity anywhere to be found. This is the band — as Silberman describes them — devoid of eeriness. It’s one big statement of luminosity, of serenity that arrives after reflection and aims for a more gradual appreciation of beauty. For The Antlers, it’s not such a bad thing. The band, and Silberman, have learned to let go of singular, crushing emotional moments for the sake of the bigger picture.
Vincent Tran covers music. Contact him at [email protected].