Music Review: Burst Apart by the Antlers

There is a reason why the opening and concluding tracks of the new Antlers’ album, Burst Apart, are set up as opposites of one another. Whereas the first track has a speaker claiming that he doesn’t want love; the final track gives us a narrator who desperately wants security, companionship, and, the listener can assume, love. Such juxtaposition compels a listener to ask: why shove a whole album’s worth of material between two opposing ideas?

Going back to Hospice, the Antlers’ previous release, there is a line in the song “Two” where Peter Silberman sings: “[he] told me something that I didn’t know that I wanted to hear.” This lyric refers to a doctor giving news to a colleague that there was nothing he can do to save his patient. Despite his better intentions, the speaker (in the song) acknowledges that he needed to hear this news. The exchange suggests that any individual, at any time, may not fully know him or herself. In other words, we lie to ourselves, or we fool ourselves. Despite our best intentions we don’t really know what’s best for ourselves.

Although Burst Apart is completely different than its predecessor in sound, it is similar in this small philosophy: humanity can surprise us; or to put it another way, our emotions, or our capacity to feel, can always surprise us.

The album does not begin at one absolute (I don’t want love) and end with another (I don’t want to be alone) because of new knowledge or because of an epiphany that happens somewhere along songs two through nine. No, instead, the ending emotion of the album comes as a surprise. A sudden realization amongst a world of particles, fractions, and incomplete happiness. Indeed, our emotions change suddenly, surprising us, causing us to rethink what we we previously knew.

Burst Apart is not an album that offers or promises knowledge. There is not a song offering an answer to any question. Rather, these songs are filled with temporary reactions to sudden circumstances. Consequently, these constant surprises suggest an incomplete feeling. The title itself suggests missing pieces. After all, to burst apart is to separate, to explode. To burst apart is to go from an absolute or whole state into something fractured or splintered. This incompleteness is felt throughout the album with people trying to “close parentheses” or “pull together” in spite of feeling like they are “about to burst apart.” The songs are about people who are absent, and still others who fear never returning home. The album is built upon opposites, nothing is defined for what it is. Instead, everything is defined for what it is not. This type of semantics inherently suggests incompleteness, co-dependency, and above all, an inability to survive as an individual.

Ultimately, the surprise with Burst Apart is realizing how much we need those around us. The album shifts from pushing people down stairs to holding your breath with mouths pressed together. The thing, however, is that both sentiments are sincere. No where do we get the feeling that Silberman is castigating those who close the door and never open it. In fact, we get the feeling that he has tried that. However, it was when the door was open that he was surprised by who would be willing to walk in. The fact that people do walk into our lives is the final surprise. We simply try to accept the people, or the news, that we didn’t know we needed.

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~ by Vince Bauters on June. 15. 2011.

One Response to “Music Review: Burst Apart by the Antlers”

  1. I love this central question you have posed regarding the album’s opposing ideas. You have made me appreciate this record’s lyrical content so much more.

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