Home for the Holidays

December 12th, 2011

The Antlers – Webster Hall – December 10, 2011

(Photo: Dan Rickershauser)

Saturday night was really the first night we’ve had in New York City that felt like the harsh and relentless winter to which we’re all accustomed. Maybe it was the biting cold air or maybe it was the thousands of drunken Santa Clauses strewn across the city. Whatever marked the occasion, there couldn’t be a more appropriate soundtrack to changing seasons than the music of the Antlers. Not just because of the band’s unintentionally festive name, but because the Antlers’ unique brand of fragile harmonies and heartfelt songwriting perfectly reflects the subtle splendor of winter that just barely makes the season bearable.

Their music showcases a unique type of beauty, one that rises from singer Peter Silberman’s dark songwriting. The group’s critically acclaimed 2009 release, Hospice, told the story of an emotionally abusive relationship through the analogy of a hospice worker and a patient. If that sounds depressing, the music Silberman’s crafted around the theme is anything but. For the Brooklyn-based Antlers, Saturday’s show at Webster Hall was a homecoming of sorts, returning to the U.S. from a long string of performances across Europe. The set was comprised mostly of songs off their latest release, the also critically acclaimed Burst Apart. And the defining moments were the songs that required careful listening before rewarding listeners by upping the volume and intensity to play out the final moments.

This was especially true with “Rolled Together,” which started softly and gently before a climactic crescendo. The band finished with a ghostly rendition of “Putting the Dog to Sleep” before returning to play a three-song encore. “The difference between now and a couple years ago is not lost on us,” remarked Silberman of a sold-out Webster Hall before finishing the encore with “Epilogue” (I dare you to find a more appropriately titled finale). With the goose-bump inducing nature of Silberman’s sharp falsetto serenades, it was a perfect capstone to a compelling show, by chance scheduled at the most perfect time of the year to hear it. —Dan Rickershauser