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The Antlers – 'Familiars' album review

Subtle, atmospheric melodies make for an unexpectedly uplifting record by the subdued Brooklyn trio

The Antlers once made a concept album set in a children’s cancer ward. For the Brooklyn indie rockers’ fifth full-length release, frontman Pete Silberman has been delving deep into ‘The Tibetan Book of the Dead’ for philosophical inspiration. Welcome back, Chuckles – you’re just in time for summer.

But don’t worry, because Silberman’s relentless compulsion to gaze at life’s most implacable dead ends doesn’t result in music that’s unapproachable or even particularly gloomy. Like Arcade Fire at their best, he’s managed to alchemise what sounds like a prolonged bout of navel-gazing into a set of songs with the arc of a journey from darkness into light. ‘Familiars’ is a kind of Zen chamber pop; a hymn to living in the present and learning from your past without being overwhelmed by it.

It helps, of course, that the band’s music remains so silkily seductive. A narcotic fog of pianos, horns and languid guitar figures eventually resolves itself into something radiant and subtly melodic. These baroque yet strangely ambient mood pieces make a perfect backdrop to Silberman’s musings on time and transience. The end result is immersive, emotionally involving and (eventually) even uplifting – against all the odds, a treat for long summer evenings.
What do you think of ‘Familiars’? Let us know in the comments box below or tweet us at @TimeOutMusic.

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