Monday, May 11, 2009

The Antlers: Hospice

This self-released, indie rock/ambient album's title should grab the palliative medicine community. Peter Silberman spent a year in isolation from friends, then another year to write about his experience in this album that was released March 3rd, 2009.

The tone of the album is dark and dream-like. Silberman creates a symbolic figure named Sylvia...taking inspiration from the macabre world of Sylvia Plath, as well as a fictional Sylvia depicted in the novel "Sylvia" by Leonard Michaels. Both Sylvias have tragic lives, burdened by degrees of mental illness, depression and death. Perhaps it is their illness coupled with their tortured relationships that allows Silberman to draw inspiration... regardless "Hospice" dwells on the ending of a claustrophobic relationship by portraying death, nightmares and illness.

The only clue to the title comes from Silberman's blog of the album's process. He leaves a post with the definition"hospice n 2: a program of medical and emotional care for the terminally
ill".

In the song "Kettering or, bedside manner" we encounter a woman dying of cancer (Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center) and a hired caregiver. The song, in medical terms, has a crescendo/decrescendo flow. It swells, peaks in sound and settles again. You can listen to the song at the artist's myspace page here. The lyrics are as follows:

I wish that I had known in that first minute we met, the unpayable debt that I owed you. Because you'd been abused by the bone that refused you, and you hired me to make up for that. Walking in that room when you had tubes in your arms, those singing morphine alarms out of tune kept you sleeping and even, and I didn't believe them when they called you a hurricane thunderclap.

When I was checking vitals I suggested a smile. You didn't talk for awhile, you were freezing. You said you hated my tone, it made you feel so alone, and so you told me I ought to be leaving. But something kept me standing by that hospital bed. I should have quit, but instead I took care of you. You made me sleep and uneven, and I didn't believe them when they told me that there was no saving you.

The album is definitely dark, with lyrics about waking up in a morgue and being buried alive in "Epilogue". And from "Shiva" the opening line is "Suddenly every machine stopped at once, and the monitors beeped the last time. Hundreds and thousands of hospital beds, and all of them empty but mind." You can read all the lyrics to the album here.

Although just released, the album is getting a lot of press. In fact NPR's All Songs Considered has named "Hospice" as the best album of 2009, so far.

So take a listen and let us know what you think.

3 Responses to “The Antlers: Hospice”

Hovtzi said...
June 16, 2009 at 5:48 PM

Hey,

First of all I'd like to say that I think it's a beautiful piece you worte here.
The album itself is amazing. I have it for a couple of month and never really sank into it til I read what you wrote just now.
I was looking for the album's lyrics, and that's how I got to your post.

Anyway, I think Silberman in on the way to be a beatiful lyricist, just like Jeff tweedy for Wilco. I'm going to listen to their older stuff: http://theantlers.bandcamp.com/ maybe I'll find me a new band to my favs.. :-)


Anonymous said...
October 30, 2009 at 9:30 AM

I too appreciate how well written and thoughtful of a review that was written. My neighbor just turned me onto the Antlers Hospice album. I hear them on satilite radio from time to time. It is beautiful and haunting and radiohead-ish.


Barry said...
April 19, 2010 at 9:28 AM

This is becoming one of my favorite albums of the last couple years. I have a mental link between this album and The Mountain Goats "The Sunset Tree"; both seem to be doomed relationships, though one man-made, the other connected to cancer. I guess perhaps they're just both beautiful albums drenched in tragedy. But an excellent write-up. It's neat to hear a review from someone in the medical community with a tie to the subject matter.