After bumming everyone out—in the best possible way—with 2009’s Hospice, Brooklyn trio The Antlers has returned with another batch of richly atmospheric tunes, this time without all that depressing cancer-ward talk. Still, it’s not like frontman Peter Silberman has suddenly decided to use his haunting falsetto to sing about cute kittens and unicorns—in fact, it’s a dog-eat-dog world on Burst Apart, with lines like “I’m not a puppy you take home / don’t bother trying to fix my heart” and “My trust in you is a dog with a broken leg” scattered among sentiments that, regardless of their subject matter, tend to sound ominous when delivered in Silberman’s upper register. Things seem to be completely unraveling from the get-go, as the album opens with “I Don’t Want Love,” and the lines, “You wanna climb up the stairs / I wanna push you back down / But I let you inside / so you can push me around.” But overall, the album’s emotional tone is as subtly complex as the electro-organic music, which easily reaches grand, dramatic heights even while remaining relatively subdued.
Radiohead’s influence is all over Burst Apart, alongside elements of TV On The Radio, Low, and Craig Wedren’s operatic voice, though the best comparison is to Holly Miranda’s The Magician’s Private Library, a gem from last year produced by TVOTR’s Dave Sitek that matched pop appeal with experimental excursions, all in service of sturdy songwriting and a moodiness that just touched the edge of goth. It isn’t as conceptual as its predecessor, but Burst Apart is just as much of an event, one that comes with some cautious optimism in the end: “Putting The Dog To Sleep” is a deeply passionate throwback slow dance that closes the proceedings with, “Put your trust in me / I’m not gonna die alone / I don’t think so.”