Friday, August 3, 2012

ALBUM REVIEW: The Antlers - Undersea

by Robby Beck

It hardly seems like it's been three years since Brooklyn group The Antlers released their breakout record Hospice, which captured the hearts, and tears, of many, including yours truly. In 2011 they released a record called Burst Apart that took away the conceptual ideas that Hospice had, and in theory I should've been disappointed with that record. But it ended up moving me the same, because even if the songs were separate entities rather than a whole, The Antlers never lost their sense of emotion, and replaced the concept-album format with a series of beautiful sounds and production that ended up redefining the band in the best possible way.

The soundscapes and production seem to be the primary focus of their newest EP, Undersea, and to be honest that might be it's biggest flaw. Not that the sonic textures are bad, in fact in many cases they're the best parts of these individual tracks, but that is the problem. The sounds on Antlers records are always great, but what rivals that is the raw, naked emotion. Whether it be confessional and soul-crushing on any number of tracks on Hospice, or mournful but hopeful as in a track like "Putting the Dog to Sleep". Unfortunately this EP is just lacking in that regard, and I guess what's supposed to make up for that is a vague concept surrounding this release. Something about being underwater, perhaps?

The EP begins pretty strongly with maybe the most summer-y track The Antlers have ever released, "Drift Dive". The first taste of the new sounds the band have been working with is soothing, romantic, and gorgeous. The remaining three tracks however, are darker, as if you're sinking from the shoreline to the deep, unknown abyss. After "Drift Dive" though, the EP runs into the first real pothole for me. "Endless Ladder" is very pretty, and would be pretty nice as a 4, maybe 5 minute piece, but it just doesn't have enough staying power for the 8 and a half minutes it lasts. "Crest" brings back some of the jazzy horn sounds The Antlers have worked with before, and as beautiful as those and Peter's voice is, I just wish the lyrics he were singing had more description, and were less vague. The EP closes pretty strong with "Zelda", which may be the darkest song on here. The soundscapes are some of the best on the record, and the lyrics, while still being too vague, hint at some things to come.

If this EP is a sign of what's to come from the band, then I'd say it's a good start sound-wise. But on the band's next release I just hope to see more of the urgency and poetry that I get so much out of the previous releases from this band. I'm interested in another concept-led album from The Antlers, but I'm hoping to get a better sense of that concept in music to come from the band.

Score: Decent 6

(Robby is undersea at the moment, but you can hit him up on Twitter @ClydeNut to hear his stories from below.

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