REVIEW: The Antlers – Green to Gold

You don’t have to dig too deep to discover what Green to Gold is about. With an autumnal glow adorning its cover, song titles that allude to the beauty of nature, and lyrics that extol the virtues of acceptance and contentment, it would be fair to say The Antlers’ sixth album is their most positive yet. This is a record that reflects Peter Silberman’s mid-thirties mindset. He moved out of the city a little while ago and has embraced a spiritual headspace that his new surroundings lend themselves to. For a band whose best known work is a concept album about a person who falls in love with a terminally ill cancer patient (which metaphorically illustrates a toxic relationship), this seems like… warmer ground.

Yet despite the bleak or heavy terrain they’ve previously explored, The Antlers have always made lushly beautiful music. It’s easy to forget this; I came to Green to Gold having barely listened to them in the seven years since 2014’s Familiars. So the lovely thing about this album is that it works as a welcome reminder of what made them so great in the first place. I discovered Hospice when I was supposed to be writing essays at university, and was completely knocked out by it. The key thing about that record was its sound – chilly, unsettling, desperate: it put you in that hospital with those characters and made you feel their despair. The same attention to detail is evident on ‘Strawflower’ and ‘Equinox’, the rather beautiful instrumental pieces that open and close Green to Gold. Incorporating field recordings and carefully arranged instrumentation, they set the scene of the peaceful vistas that ground this album.

The same can be said for the highlights. ‘Stubborn Man’ and ‘Just One Sec’ are my favourite tracks here, and they’re really the songs that are the emotional core of this record. Both have Silberman taking a look at himself and his personal relationships, soundtracked by gentle and unrushed instrumentation. Strings are subtly deployed in the background as sweeping drums, guitar and piano push the songs forward. We’re with Silberman as he sits in his reflective mindset. Songs like these remind me of their Undersea EP, the previous time they’ve created music this sumptuous.

I often feel it’s a lazy criticism to say ‘all the songs sound the same’ because it’s normally shorthand for ‘I haven’t properly tried with this album’. But at times on Green to Gold, it can be difficult to distinguish between certain songs. The Antlers can be so restrained that their music can sometimes have an ambient quality, fading into the background. I certainly felt this was the case with Familiars, which though a decent album, has few memorable moments. Here, the gentle atmosphere makes the highlights positively joyful to listen to, but I’ve heard this album several times since its release and I still have to replay ‘Solstice’ or ‘Volunteer’ or ‘Porchlight’ to recall what they sound like.

The title track is a prime example. On the face of it, its seven-minute length suggests it’s going to be THE big statement. But apart from being vaguely pleasant, it does nothing remarkable to justify its runtime. It could be two minutes long, it could be twenty – the effect would be the same. The dearth of memorable moments therefore makes the record feel rather slight. If you’ve never listened to an Antlers record, I’d be hard-pressed to recommend that you start here.

For fans though, it’s a welcome return. It’s honestly great to have Silberman and drummer Michael Lerner making music again. Listening to an Antlers album is always an enjoyable experience. There’s a lack of exploration here which is a little disappointing, knowing what they’ve previously been capable of. But maybe that’s the point – at peace with himself, Silberman might feel he has nothing left to prove. The real victory is that he’s no longer the unhappy soul who made those darker records and that The Antlers are a going concern again. It’s good to have them back.

 

Words by Tom Burrows.

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