Brooklyn-based croonsters The Antlers release their fifth full-length album, Familiars, this week—and it certainly provides a familiar, recognizable sound. The Antlers have developed a reputation for creating sweet indie tunes replete with lush orchestration, and Familiars doesn’t disappoint.
There are few bands more chill than The Antlers, and Familiars is a testament to that. The album begins with “Palace,” starting off with light percussion and spacey effects accompanied by warm keys, a single, uplifting trumpet and vocalist Peter Silberman’s wavering, delicate tenor. Slowly, more horns come in, joined by tinkling synths as the song gradually picks up, gaining a sweeping orchestral sound.
“Palace,” like all of the songs on the album, is richly textured, layered over and over with gentle harmonizing melodies. On “Doppelgängers” a lone trumpet rises in a slow, muted quaver and then subsides below soft, pulsing guitar tones that sprawl outward. Silberman sounds like he’s in some old, smoky jazz club, singing in the half-light of a dim, velvet-draped stage. Jazzy tendencies appear on several tracks, like “Hotel,” which blends a more electronic sound with smooth guitar riffs and gospel-organ synths, or “Parade,” where light, syncopated trebly guitar, laid-back vocals, and a soulful trumpet come together in a critique of suffering and violence.
Most of the songs on Familiars sound fairly similar—they’ve got trumpets, simple downtempo percussion, reverbed-out guitars, the occasional synths and keys—so the songs tend to sound, well, familiar, as the album progresses. If this was any other band, or any other album, this level of similarity across the tracks might be a bad thing. But the Antlers use their orchestral aptitudes to great advantage.
On “Director,” for example, there’s the same smooth sound, slow percussion, and waves of techie synths, with light, staccato guitars and Silberman’s comforting crooning. The same goes for “Revisited,” with the addition of some bending guitar notes that give it a little country twang, and a long, delightfully improvisational bridge. But neither “Director” nor “Revisited” nor the other songs ever get boring, because they’re so well composed, so textured and layered and rich, perfectly paced for rises and builds and falls.
Familiars will easily wend its subtle, ambling way into listeners’ ears, providing the ultimate chill. While bands like Beach House provide an ethereal, unearthly escape into lush dream-worlds drenched in synths, The Antlers are sitting back in the sun, or in that dim, smoky bar, taking it nice and easy.