Songs about hospitals, or people in hospitals, or people visiting other people in hospitals carry with them an agonizing sort of heaviness. These kinds of songs are usually a result of some life-changing altercation with body failure or an untimely, unavoidable freak accident - landing someone in the last place that they'd ever want to be, laid up and forced to be cared for, rehabilitated, while those around them are fretting and treating them as if every extra moment is precious and maybe even needs the silent treatment so the damaged soul doesn't get spooked away. New York's The Antlers sink their teeth into this idea of the infirmary as a place for little recklessness, just a temple for looking deep into a person or one's self and extracting much of the pulp, lots of the main wires and circuits and laying them out on the surface in front of them and picking through them - in admiration and amazement - with a fine-toothed comb. It's marveling at all of the haunted and worn out parts. It's emitting a spontaneous gasp of curiosity when a living, carnivorous tumor is pulled out of a head or up and past the throat, out through the mouth. It's seeing the blood and the wriggling pieces, the organs and the objects that have never once seen the light of the day prior to this, out and flopping around like a fish under surveillance - first more frantic and then less so, then despondent or almost resigned to the increasing coldness of their outsides. Lead singer Peter Silberman makes us ache in such a poignant way. It's a move that's full of glassy empathy and commiseration for whomever is lying there in that hospital bed, sore and possibly hopeful, but possibly despondent too, as someone who's been given the worst kind of news - that there are no other painkillers that will kill anything in their body and that there's nothing further that can be done here. Many of the songs on "Hospice," - a breathtaking album that is shimmery and delicate pop music that has faint affectations to the kinds of pained miseries that Antony Hegarty wrings out of himself with the utmost of care, like a man tending to a wounded bird - feature someone in the tangles of such epic inner and outer discussions about what's going on here in this hospital, coping with the words and diagnosis of the doctors. It's a tense and still oddly liberating mood, where the bedridden and the broken are still finding ways to deal with it all, seemingly with last gasps and flourishes that Silberman, drummer Michael Lerner and keyboardist Darby Cicci make sound like glorious spillings, emptyings of the sweetest and most affirming twinkles and sparkles of the human spirit. Though death may be in the air of the night, it's going to have to be ready to go toe-to-toe and it's going to have to be ready to potentially back down if these shaky folks need more time to tell and show all of their loved ones that they are indeed their loved ones.
The Antlers Official Site