The Antlers are definitely an album kind of band. While their songs can grab attention and provoke emotions from someone that’s only halfway listening, it doesn’t take much to suck you out of the dreary, melodramatic mindset they tend to bring up in people.
It’s not like we’ve had to even consider it that much. Their two previous studio efforts — 2009’s moody and borderline depressing Hospice and a somewhat (but not much) more uplifting release this year with Burst Apart— have all been concise, focused efforts that feel like they’re establishing and holding a certain mood.
But the Antlers’ latest release certainly isn’t that kind of album. The EP, titled (together), is a collection of remixes, unreleased tracks and alternate versions of songs. And when you take a look at the outliers that didn’t quite make it onto Burst Apart, it’s sort of difficult to know what to do with them.
The few remixes on the album — “Parenthesis” and “French Exit” — are pleasant enough and can stand alone as re-imaginations of the tracks they were before. The band’s take on The xx’s “VCR” merely does the track justice, but at best it will make you long for the original.
But the two honest-to-god new tracks, one of which is a collaboration, feel strange and out of place when placed among electronic-heavy remixes and already-familiar outtakes.
The first original is “Tongue Tied,” a tense piano-driven track that subs out the band’s soft-hitting drummer Michael Lerner for a looping, distorted drum sample. As far as songwriting and production goes, it’s by far the band’s strongest unreleased track on the album and also the most likable when placed in the grab-bag of songs.
It’s the winding, no-end-in-sight 18-minute collaboration with Bear in Heaven that sees the band at its heaviest, its sloppiest and its least focused. The intensity of the track turns boring minutes after the full band kicks in and feels more like a jam than something that was planned out. But for longtime fans, the novelty of hearing the band really rock might be worth the price of the album alone.
(together) is still a decent collection for hardcores that couldn’t get enough of the Antlers after Burst Apart. It shows a clear progression from the sound that was set on Hospice, along with some of the choices the band made to walk away from that sound. But casual listeners might be left confused, bored and, well—bummed. And that’s a terrible place to be at the end of an hour-long EP.