A band that debuted with a gut-wrenching concept album revolving around the death of a either a person or a relationship (different reviewers arrive at different interpretations, even after interviewing lead Peter Silberman) may not be what you’d consider a perfect fit for a sweltering, outdoor summertime festival. But if you’ve seen Brooklyn’s The Antlers perform, you already know that the live delivery of their debut album Hospice is so committed and deeply atmospheric that The Antlers onstage bring about anything but downtrodden emotion.
Simply put, if you’re not one inclined to “feel” too much, you can safely watch this show without being sucked into a black vortex of sorrow. In fact, The Antlers live reveal themselves as far more positive, cathartic, and upbeat than the liner notes could ever allow. Their performances have been praised for catching the audiences’ breath, rendering them frozen until bursting into energetic applause. And trust me — I’ve seen this happen.
In sequence, the tracks on 2009’s Hospice follow a traditional story arch as the album progresses, assisted by evolving tempo and melodies. Nestled towards the end of the album, “Two” is a particular crowd pleasure.
This year, The Antlers released their follow-up album, Break Apart, which led them to collaborate with Austin sweetheart Alan Palomo of Neon Indian for “Rolled Together.”
There’s no gripping, overarching back-story on Break Apart, which comes as a bit of a relief for those still stuck with an emotional hangover from the subjects presented by Silberman’s haunting falsetto on Hospice. (At this point, you want to cheer Silberman on when he declares “I Don’t Want Love”) The sophomore album is much more moody and far less sad. “Every Night My Teeth Are Falling Out” takes a turn towards the downright sexy. The seductively darker image is further supported by the track’s neurotic video, where bandmates are seen foaming at the mouth, pulling out hair, and hammering teeth on the floor.
What both albums have in common are tracks that pick up impressive pace and tempo, climaxing in screaming falsettos, wailing guitars and pitch-perfect cacophony. Get familiar with The Antlers and you’ll be able to recognize the performance of any heavier material as a kiss goodbye to the emotions that inspired the songs in the first place. On stage, the band plays with such intensity and emergent euphoria, what you thought you knew about their recorded work is instantly transformed. Check them out on Saturday at 12:30PM on the AMD stage. It’ll be worth the early arrival.
This week’s ACL Festival 2011 Artist Discovery Series feature comes from Caitlin Ryan of CultureMap Austin.