Monday, February 1, 2010

The Antlers - Hospice

I tend not to get too emotionally affected by music, mostly because I usually ignore lyrics unless they're especially clever, and well, a lot of musicians don't try that hard. But it's difficult to pay attention to Hospice at all and not get hit by it. It figures that only a couple weeks after I wrote a "best of 2009" list which featured nothing that made a huge impact on me, I'd hear an album as gripping as anything in recent memory. The music itself is only part of the equation, and you can't talk about Hospice without mentioning its origins. From what I can tell it's more or less the true story of the singer falling in love with a terminal bone cancer patient at the hospital where he worked. You can probably guess how well that works out.

Despite the simple honesty of the lyrics, they never really hit you over the head with the message, and it's easy to ignore the content if you just want to hear a nice mix of shoegazing post-rock and indie folkiness (why isn't this a more popular combination?), though if you do you're not giving it a fair chance to do everything it can. Some people probably wouldn't want to hear an album that would only depress the hell out of them, and that's fine. But it's one of the more powerful listening experiences I've had in a while.

Despite the sorrow of the words and the sincerity with which they're sung, it wouldn't work if the music was bad, and fortunately it's not. There's a fair amount of time spent without much happening beyond ambient noise, and it's difficult to love every moment when it feels like you're being pulled out of the flow a bit. There's a push and pull with the general sound as it goes between a strumming guitar and louder noise elements, and it could have gotten bogged down in its own seriousness. Luckily it's catchy enough in places to just be enjoyable to listen to, even while they're playing songs about abortion and knowing that someone you love is dying. I don't want to name individual tracks, because it really should be experienced as a full album, and it all runs together like one long piece of music. If you just want a taste though, it's okay to look up the music video for "Two". I'm definitely interested in seeing what this group does next now that this story has been told.

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