The Antlers – Familiars – Review

The Brooklyn trio; The Antlers released their fifth studio album Familiars last month and it has been something that ‘ve been anxious to catch up on and listen to as there has been quite a lot of talk about this album and much of it has been rather positive. It has been released on Transgressive records, recorded in Brooklyn and produced by themselves. Something which can sometimes turn out to be a disaster as you’ll always be in agreement with every choice you make. However, for those who realistic and analytical then there should be no problems in that sense. Despite there being only nine tracks on the album, each one is rather extensive with no track ducking under 4.57 and so this album requires a patient and absorbing listener rather than someone looking for instant hooks and melodies.

The title track ‘Palace’ opens with a bare, piercing whir before the delicate piano chords and higher set sways of synths delicately lay a top of it. A cautious, yet rich brass incursion helps sombrely pull the song to it’s verse where you find a vocal with a slight echo and a close and smooth sound. The brass elements come back each time to pull the song to it’s next stage and enhance the boldness of the sound along with the raised vocals as it steadily and slowly oscillates with the brass bouncing off the percussion and lightly tumbling pianos and spaced out riffs. The vocals softly filter the song to an end surrounded by a brass enclave. It certainly is graceful and smoothing even if you do get a sense it’s peaks could have been higher, but it remained refined and subtle and so the feel was unbroken. Not a spectacular song. Just a very dignified song. ‘Hotel’ features the undulating swell of a riff and shimmering synths wrapped around it along with a sure beat within it. The intimate and sweeping vocals sit well above the instrumentals for a clear and effective lyrical delivery that is broken up by instrumental parts of the continued shimmering of synths, a muffled riff and bursts of brass. Beyond this the track becomes a little more bare with the spaced out piano chords and teasing of a cymbal with the swathe of a vocal. The scratchy, drawn out guitar part closes the song that had more of an immediate and personal atmosphere as opposed to the distant instrumentation of ‘Palace’.

‘Director’ has a richer and fuller ambience to it. The growing shoots of electronica glisten as the expand beyond the slithered and relaxed riff and delicate percussion. Here the vocals maintain an echo to feed back into the track, but remain very close to give lead vocalist Peter the chance to really soar to the highest reaches of the space created by the expansive track with it’s very open structure and feel. The track has a slight lost feel to it which makes it completely immersive and a track to get lost in. ‘Intruders’ is a softly broken and fragmented track which has a meandering riff and a gentle flashing synth part beaming above the introductory vocals are the most distant of the album; only feeling closer when Peter rises in his vocal range. The echo on the back of it makes the song feel a little subdued and shaded. Refuge is the albums shortest track at 4.57 and though the vocal delivery and arrangement is light and airy, the bras becomes a bit more of a burden. The flashing guitar rotation does save it a little in that sense along with the softly tumbling bass line; something it had largely done without for most of the album thus far. The album has a wonderfully warm and soft edged atmosphere that is sustained throughout though you do get to the point by the end of the album, wishing that you heard a few more prominent fluctuations of sound in keeping with the atmosphere, but with a little more variedness and prominence than the brass overtones that became a slightly worn out feature by the final track. A wonderful effort nonetheless.

The Antlers = Familiars = 8/10