The highly anticipated new LP Familiars by Fishpork favorites The Antlers didn’t immediate reveal itself upon first listen, but first impressions sometimes don’t provide insight into the complexities and layers that repeat listens allow. And a new record by The Antlers always deserves every benefit of the doubt. The same held true back in 2009 for Grizzly Bear’s magnificent Veckatimest, an album that didn’t impress much at first but slowly revealed itself as an all-time favorite after spending endless late night hours with it. The exciting revelation from Familiars is its revisiting the exaggerated melancholy space of 2009’s Hospice, the record that put The Antlers on the map and continues to be a creative inspiration. It’s not exactly a sequel, but the record explores similar themes and styles.
While you won’t find a skippable track on the album, the first and true highlight of the record is undoubtedly “Hotel.” At times, Michael Lerner’s drums fail to resonate anything unique (ala Grizzly Bear’s Chris Bear), but he excels on “Hotel” with slightly and purposely off-time snares and cymbals and a jazz-influenced drum pattern. Frontman Peter Silberman’s lyrics are especially somber as his falsetto cries “I rent a blank room to stop living in my past self.” Silberman’s lyrics are beyond haunting on Familiars, and his voice belongs in a class of indie elite with the likes of Hamilton Leithauser and Jim James. Let’s be real … we listen to The Antlers to hear Silberman’s heavenly crooning. Another highlight of the record is not a song per se. The addition of brass instruments is enormously effective, and multi-instrumentalist Darby Cicci’s contributions are noteworthy. His trumpet on tracks like “Palace,” “Revisited,” and “Parade” brings these track over the top. Familiars is one of our favorite albums of 2014.