Review: The Antlers’s Green to Gold Is Powered by a Sense of Muted Awe

The album stretches its songs out as long as possible in an effort to get the most out of a flickering of serenity.

The Antlers, Green to Gold
Photo: Shervin Lainez

While the Antlers have always crafted beautiful, swelling indie rock, they’ve never been a particularly easy band to listen to. Frontman Peter Silberman’s songwriting has ranged from mysterious and dense to emotionally devastating, poignantly turning over heavy, existential questions about interpersonal relationships, death, and disease. On Green to Gold, the Antlers’s first studio album in seven years, it seems as if Silberman is finally finding—or at least looking for—some peace. The singer-songwriter set out to make what he describes as “Sunday morning music,” and indeed, the meandering compositions on the band’s latest sustain a muted awe that’s fit for a lazy weekend.

The instrumental opening track, “Strawflower,” neatly defines the album’s palette: It’s an easy, methodical track that rises from a foundation of chirping cicadas and crickets, with a simple tick-tocking beat guiding a central guitar line. Those insects return on the bucolic title track, this time as accompaniment for Silberman’s distinct, silky voice. He sets a clear scene with straightforward but compelling visuals: “No one’s up, and no cars on the street/Hiding from an unrelenting heat/Sun is climbing out from underneath.” He’s watching the summer end in real time, and while the song doesn’t cover a whole lot of ground during its seven-minute run time, for the Antlers—currently a duo consistent of Silberman and longtime drummer Michael Lerner—this kind of quiet transformation is worth reveling in.

Most of Green to Gold yearns to hold on to moments like these, stretching them out as long as possible in an effort to get the most out of a flickering of serenity. “It Is What It Is” and “Wheels Roll Home” invoke a kind of ‘70s-style easy listening vibe in order to imply a breezy acceptance. The standout “Volunteer” builds from a shimmering acoustic intro to a wall of ghostly echoes, Silberman’s vocals getting more distant and drawn out as the song progresses. “Porchlight” is a moonlit serenade with Silberman’s cooing vocals and the song’s swaying melody conveying both a recognition and release: “If ever untethered, I know you’ll know.”

At times, the album’s lack of intensity allows the songs to sink into the background a little too easily. Sonically, they all have the same placid air about them, with few distinctive peaks or valleys. But even if the songs slide by effortlessly, this approach allows the Antlers to color in a moment without demanding too much attention. If and when you stop to really take these sweeping, solemn songs in, it’s clear that the Antlers are still capable of conjuring beauty.

Score: 
 Label: Anti  Release Date: March 26, 2021  Buy: Amazon

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