This is my third attempt at writing a review of this extraodinary album!
Hospice is a "once in a group's lifetime record" where every song/piece fits into the collection. I have read that this album was the result of the lead singer's experience of having endured an abusive relationship with someone suffering from cancer. The songs manage to commit to music the gamut of emotions of a deteriorating bond with a dying person. I also have to say that while I never like singers playing tricks with their voices, the lead's falsetto is near essential for this.
In my mind the first three songs are laments: sorrowful 'Kettering', raging 'Sylvia' and quiet reflective 'Atrophy'.
Then there are two songs which deliver an uplifting musical accompaniment :'Bear' which manages to mix acceptance and the vulgarity of the situation. 'Two' which relates the desperate silliness in the mess, recounting the memories that lead up to it. My previous reviews never appeared because I quoted certain lines with profanity in Bear, but I dare say all of it is justified in this album by making the lyrics very powerful.
Following that, there is the return to the hush of dying and death with 'Shiva'. 'Wake' is the singer's attempt to put a point across to the departed but it sounds like he is repeating the mantra to himself to make it real.
Then to reiterate the group's creative streak, the happiest tune in the record, 'Bear', gets twisted into a hollow and macabre sadness of loss: 'Epilogue'.
There are two non-lyric pieces which I thought were originally fillers: 'Prologue' and 'Thirteen'. On repeat listening to the album as a whole they are vital placemarks and tone setters. Unfortunately if you're sampling this never gets across properly. Indeed, Prologue would put many people off immediately as the first sampler.
NPR Music bravely voted this album of 2009. I shall paraphrase their advice of just letting this run on a lonely weekend morning. And in my own words, I leave you with this: Hospice is a modern psalm of sorrow and loss .
on 4 December 2009
Based on brilliant reviews, I decide to give this album a try, and now I will try and write my own to do it justice. Hospice tells an emotional narrative throughout its ten tracks of a man losing someone he loves to cancer, and it certainly isn't easy listening.
The lyrics are deep, harrowing and often brutal in their storytelling. But they are perfectly matched by frontman Peter Silberman's shaky falsetto vocals, which, coupled with the albums overall content makes Hospice at times reminiscent of Arcade Fire's Funeral. I don't like pulling out standout tracks when the album is so cohesive as a complete composition, but hey, I'm going to. First single `Bear' is beautiful and vulnerable, as Silberman's shivering vocals tell the story of an abortion, whilst `Two' raises the tempo and builds to an epic final verse.
To echo Silbermans lyrics from `Two' - "You had a new dream, it was more like a nightmare", the album is musically dream-like with gentle melodies building in vast crescendos, whilst the lyrical content is so deep and morbid in comparison, as the story of this nightmarish situation unfolds.
The album works fantastically, it had me hooked by the heartstrings in the same way Bon Iver's For Emma, Forever Ago did last year. Hospice is gentle on the ear, but heavy on the mind, balanced perfectly to create wonderful wintery listening.
Don't expect an easy or a comfortable listen here.
Give it a chance however and you may open yourself
up to an extraordinary and memorable musical experience.
An album whose central subject is about pain and loss
will not endear it to major industry exposure.
Not that this should concern us. We have our own minds after all.
Peter Silberman and his cohorts Darbi Cicci and Michael Lerner
give us a glimpse behind the curtains of usually private grief.
An album devoted to the experience of losing a loved other to cancer.
Silberman's whole being seems to rise to the challenge
in these 10, often harrowing, compositions.
A voice strained and cracked and bleeding with raw emotion.
Sometimes pouring out of the tangled centre of the mix;
sometimes disembodied and trying to work its way in from the outside;
always focussed, however, and fiercly committed to the terrible truth
of the project's subject. Brave and uncompromising.
A track by track deconstruction would seem somehow
ignoble given the integrity of its creator's vision.
It is a powerfully realised coherent whole. A true labour of love.
There is light and shade even in some of the darkest places however
but the melodic and dynamic variation rarely let's us get too far away
from the suffocating reality of the tragedy unfolding before us.
The song 'Thirteen' is one of the saddest
and most haunting songs I have ever heard.
The unique energy communicated by this wonderful album is unimpeachable.
on 24 January 2013
It only took one listen to this superb album for me to be totally hooked; yes, it's dark and intense, but that's what makes it so amazing. I'm a a huge fan of Spiritualized and, despite my inherent dislike of comparing bands, I have to say if you like J Spaceman I think you'll love this....
Musically and emotionally satisfying, this has immediately eased it's melancholy way into my top ten. Just brilliant.
on 11 December 2012
It's a decent album. Seems like every lyric had a meaning to the writer, which is refreshing, since it plays almost like a story.
Only complaint is it does get a little samey, but because of that it flows very well when you listen to the entire album in order, so I recommend doing that and not really putting many of the songs into a custom playlist.
on 16 October 2009
First, The xx gave us the key to unlocking the age of understatement on their eponymous debut, and now The Antlers are here to confirm the power of restraint. Pete Silberman and band form a simple 5-piece. Hospice's 8, one-word tracks are bookended by an instrumental, post-rock prologue and swelling and eye-welling epilogue. Their influences are clean to the point of clinical.
It would have been an easy but poor tribute to have upped the level of Hallmark-like sentiment on Hospice, given its externalisation in music form of the raw emotion felt from losing a loved one. The concentrated catharsis contained in the washing cymbals of `Thirteen' are particularly poignant. Silberman's falsetto flits from an Antony Hegarty-like, soulful cry to a Wild Beasts-like, operatic mew.
Hospice is the sound of simple done sickeningly well. `Atrophy' and `Bear' lift the same sense of piano-built purpose as Spiritualized's stately Songs in A&E. That Silberman mumbles parts of his falsetto on these tracks is all the more compelling. Extended, shimmering instrumentals give way to chilly confessions that evoke the spirit of Bon Iver's For Emma Forever Ago. The hard-hitting key changes in `Sylvia' bring to mind Arcade Fire's best emotive flourishes. The haunting, choral harmonies that drift around the cavernous Hospice seem like embracing angels.
Silberman's trump cards, held against a maudlin backdrop of shivering sorrow, are the rays of sunlight which punctuate the clouds. The unbridled optimism that, for example, cracks the echoing gloom in `Two' is testament to what it is to be human. Hospice is much more than just music. It is the meeting of long-lost friends, the loss of a first love, the desire to be with one's family and that feeling of being lost. We enter the world and most probably leave it in the hospital, and all the moments in between now have a fitting soundtrack.
on 28 January 2011
Hospice is an album that works incredibly well on many levels; it is an haunting, melancholy album that can be used to inspire, it is a deeply personal emotional journey, it's a concept album with an engaging narrative and it's an emoiotnal case study. Oh, and it's also incredibly well written music.
Hopsice tells the story of a man who works in a hospital who falls in love with a patient, possibly marries them, and then slowly loses them to cancer in Kettering hospice. Lyrically memorable and haunting, Hospice is an album about guilt - doing things out of guilt, and unjustified guilt. It crafts a journey into the concious of someone who has to help people, and longs to save them, and what happens when he fails. It's emotionally capturing and identifiable, and paints a wonderfully human and psychological narrative. The music and lyrics go together perfectly, with specific themes and emotions and themes being triggered exceptionally well with musical cues, and a perfect understanding of how music can be shaped to compliment voice.
Hospice recalls Grizzly Bear's Veckatimest and Radiohead's In Rainbows at times, but finds it's own unique place in indie music. Songs that stick with you long after you've stopped listening, that carry a great weight with them, and you are reminded of in day to day life. At times light enough to feel more like an atmosphere that hangs in the air, then demanding your full attention, raising the timbre and solidifying the tone.
Hospice does not confine itself to hopelessness and darkness, though. There's a beautifully cathartic chorus at the end of Wake, and hints strongly at the possibility of "letting people in". It's a jarringly honest narrative and one that focuses on growth - but never hints that it is easy. The final shows the narrator slowly starting to overcome his self-hate and guilt, but that subconciously - in his dreams, he is still a slave to them. It's an album that speaks to the human condition, and does so with a memorable, incredibly well-written voice.
on 23 July 2011
Hospice is heavy. There's no denying it. It's an open-eyed representation of what it is to live through a loved one's suffering at the hands of cancer.
The music fits the theme brilliantly. The sounds lurch in a discomforting way between tenderness, depression, joy, anger, sorrow, guilt and go back round the loop several times. Anyone who has experienced the subject matter of this album could probably tell you what it was about even if it was instrumental. The lyrics are equally impressive. To say this is a truthful album is to understate it's honesty. The lyrics are so heartbreaking and so beautiful that I weep every time I listen to this record. I wouldn't cheapen the record by picking out any individual track or quoting from it. To really appreciate this album it has to be listened to as a whole. It's a true concept album and it's essential listening for anyone who has a soul.
Although listening to this album makes me intensely emotional I don't find it depressing. As have millions of others, I have been unfortunate enough to experience the story told here first hand and I find the honesty with which it's told cathartic and comforting. As well as wondering at the beauty of the music, I also find it helps me to cope with my own tragedy.
on 15 September 2009
This is not an easy listen in the slightest. It opens with a fuzzy swell that feels like the start of something deeply profound. The album pushes through so many different emotions but all of them have a mournful tint thanks to Peter Silberman's breathy and cracking voice crawling out of the centre of the noise. It comes as no surprise that emotion on this scale is the result of absolute tragedy. It is simply the soundtrack to a person's death written after they have gone and every note drips with the pain. It is powerful and rewarding.
on 11 October 2009
Superficially, this cd is nothing like Burial's Untrue or Neutral Milk Hotel's From the Aeroplane over the Sea, yet the raw emotion it displays moved me the way those two pieces of music did when I first heard them. It is tender and charged with pain and hurt in the way it deals with losing a loved one.
If there are comparisons to be made, perhaps Anthony and the Johnson's Hope There's Someone comes close to the sound, or lyrically, Sufjan Stevens' Casimir Pulaski Day. In the end, though, comparisons are pointless for, with Hospice, Peter Silberman has created something quite unique.
The music is sometimes almost ambient, sometimes reaching unbearable crescendos that reflect his inner state. The lyrics are outstanding, poignant, heartfelt, exploring the feelings of guilt and inadequacy that the healthy feel confronted with someone they love who is sick and in pain. This description, of course, makes Hospice sound like a bit of a downer! But it is not. It is uplifting and staggeringly beautiful. It celebrates life. I felt oddly euphoric listening to tracks like Thirteen and Two and Wake the first time, even though there was a lump in my throat.
Music as powerful as this seldom comes along. Give it a listen. For my money, Hospice by the Antlers is a masterpiece.