Burst Apart by The Antlers (Frenchkiss, 2011. 41 minutes)

The Antlers is an indie rock band based in Brooklyn, New York. The band is a three-piece outfit consisting of Peter Silberman, Michael Lerner, and Darby Cicci. Originally a solo project created by Silberman, the band formed after Silberman self-released two records. The best songs later became Hospice, an acclaimed record independently released by the band. After the success of Hospice, The Antlers signed with Frenchkiss Records. With Burst Apart, The Antlers look to build on the success of Hospice.

The Cultural Sensation that Was Emo

Before a careful evaluation of Burst Apart commences, we must begin by exploring the nature of emotion-based music. Rooted in the cathartic tones of Sunny Day Real Estate, “emo,” as it was coined, rose in popularity at the beginning of the “aughts.” Characterized first and foremost by the dark, depressing, and emotions-on-the-sleeve lyrics, emo music created an identity for many high school students who were convinced that they will be forever misunderstood.
While emo typically found its tuning in rock instrumentation, its little brother, “screemo” occurred partly due to the annoyance of shaggy bangs sliding down the forehead and inhibiting sight (Of course, this statement is in jest. Screemo bands didn’t form due to anger about long hair, they all just seemed to have long hair). As with emo, screemo communicated heartfelt lyrics through screaming instead of singing as if the louder decibels will form a better identity for this mistaken lot.

It’s Dark; It’s Painful; It’s Almost Funny; It’s a Teenage Breakup

The genre’s genesis aside, emo lyrics conjured a life of its own as these emotional phrases took on a level of absurdity. Perhaps most famously, the lyricist in Taking Back Sunday once wrote,

“The truth is you could slit my throat and with my one last gasping breath I’d apologize for bleeding on your shirt.”

It’s dark; it’s painful; it’s almost funny; it’s a teenage breakup.

Emo and The Antlers

What does emo have to do with The Antlers’ Burst Apart? Musically? Nothing. Lyrically? Everything. Not to say that Peter Silberman’s lyrics are as adolescent as Taking Back Sunday’s, but he has certainly created a niche in the indie music scene for overly emotional lyrics.
In “Every Night My Teeth are Falling Out,” Silberman sings,

“One dumb night I’ll make a point to take an old verboten route / And one dumb night I’ll take you out, to the bar we’ve both blacked out / One dumb night two bad decisions don’t divide to cancel out / You and I, divorced but not devout / Every night my teeth are falling out.”

Clearly, such lyrics might easily find themselves written on the wall of a brooding teenager. What makes these lyrics work, however, is the music that houses them.

Ethereal Ambiance

While typical early 2000s emo produced loud guitars and percussion behind a whiney singer, Silberman’s voice feels ethereal in the midst of spacious timbres and reverb soaked guitars. In the opener, “I Don’t Want Love,” The Antlers seek simplicity. With easy chords crackling under a whammy pedal and a 4/4 beat, the tune is catchy when needed and moving due to its production.
In short, The Antlers straddle the line between artful music and whiney emo. Were the lyrics placed in a worse setting, they would encounter derision. However, The Antlers painstakingly focus on music that creates a setting – a feeling that coincides with the lyrical direction. With such good production, Burst Apart is an enjoyable record. If you are interested in an album that encourages you to feel, check out Burst Apart.

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