YOU'D NEVER GUESS IT, especially considering the final track is titled "Putting the Dog to Sleep," but Burst Apart is the Antlers' "happy" album—relatively speaking, that is. It's the follow-up to their devastating and deeply moving Hospice, which broke the New York band to an international audience following its release in 2009. Listening to that record, which dealt with a failed relationship via the metaphor of a terminal patient, was like listening to—and please forgive the medical simile—a heart being ripped out of someone's chest, its songs writhing like torn valves and bloody, dangling ventricles. It was exhilarating in its agony.
It's no small feat then that Burst Apart is its equal. On some days, actually, it sounds even better than that masterpiece. Burst Apart is similarly meditative and just as auspiciously expansive as Hospice, but instead of tearing you to shreds, it cradles the listener in careful rhythms and exquisite melodies, as Peter Silberman's falsetto gracefully soars over mysterious electronic backdrops.
"It's kind of about finding happiness, in a way," Silberman says of Burst Apart. "It's acknowledging that dark shit in the past—that would be Hospice and all the stuff behind it—and it starts from a pretty negative place, but [it's in order] to get to a more positive place by the end. It's a 'moving on' kind of thing, like I don't really wanna be weighed down by this shit forever. I realized when I went into Burst Apart, I was like, 'You have closure now.' All that subject matter, I can't really ignore it, but it doesn't have to be a forever thing."
That negative starting point is opening track "I Don't Want Love," a prom ballad of spectacular beauty and transparent denial. Its title says one thing, but musically the song is obviously nothing but a desperate hymn to love, despite its narrator's protests. There's even room for some sly humor in "Every Night My Teeth Are Falling Out," and carefree, jaunty swinging in "Rolled Together." "You wouldn't really associate us with this lyrically or musically, but we're actually pretty fun people!" says Silberman.
Burst Apart also sees a solidified Antlers lineup of Silberman joined by drummer Michael Lerner and keyboardist/engineer Darby Cicci, and the trio's exploratory sound comes from the freedom that their Brooklyn studio affords them. As Silberman says, some of the album's lighter tones come from Hospice's catharsis and subsequent success.
"I mean, I consider myself much happier now, and probably it's because I'm getting to do what I love. When I was doing Hospice, I didn't really think much of anything was going to happen, so it was all a pretty big shock. But I think I'm happy because I feel like I was actually able to turn around some things—[like] that experience of what Hospice is about, that really crappy time in my life. It's come full circle in a good way: As a result of this thing, I've been able to transform it—not to exploit it, but turn it into something that people feel warmth toward. I think the whole story of Hospice is a very lonely one, and touring it and having it catch on made it feel like there was this camaraderie and shared experience. I think that was the whole point. I've come out on the other side and I'm like, well, this is what I wanted to do."