putting the dog to sleep

When I heard The Antlers were putting out a new album, I wondered how they could possibly follow Hospice. If I haven’t ranted hysterically in your presence about Hospice, well, prepare yourself: It’s so good. It’s SO good. The legend goes that the lead singer disappeared into his New York apartment for months, cutting all contact, losing his girlfriend, basically letting the rest of his life atrophy.  Nobody knew where he was, how he was, or what he was doing.  When he emerged one day blinking, back into the light, he was holding the first awkward drafts of Hospice.

What can I say about it?  The back of the book jacket would say it’s a concept album about a hospice worker who falls in love with a terminally ill child(?), with whom he has a sexual relationship and an abortion, and who lashes out in emotionally abusive waves of rage and sadness and frustration as she waits for her senseless death.

Hah.  I know, right?  But it’s also one of the most beautiful things I have ever heard.

Truly incredible.

Anyways, I wondered how they could possibly follow that.  They did it by not following it at all — they didn’t even try to make another Hospice.  Instead they just made a regular excellent album.  Part of what made Hospice so good was that quietly, hidden beneath the avant-guard nature of their accomplishment, The Antlers are excellent pop composers. Combine that with his voice and writing and you don’t need much else.

And that’s the central conceit to Burst Apart; the primary reason for its success: They didn’t try to make another Hospice, because they didn’t have to. They already had all the parts.  The follow-up is dark, but not bleak, and there’s a warmth to the sadness that carries, even in the upper register of his incredible falsetto.

So go get Hospice. I know you won’t, but just, do. Next time it enters the orbit of your life, grab it.  Put on headphones, lie down, close your eyes, and devote an hour to that thing. You won’t regret it. Then when it’s over, come find this song.

After the gorgeous frozen emotional tundra of Hospice, Burst Apart is like getting wrapped in a fluffy blanket and given something hot to drink. It’s still awful outside, and death is still coming — that isn’t going to change — but here at least, you’re watching it through a window.  Here, at least, somebody cares.

“But trust me to take you home…”

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