REVIEW: The Antlers – (together) EP

The Antlers‘ Burst Apart, released in May of this year, stands in my mind as one of the best, if not THE best albums that 2011 has had to offer. The Antlers obviously toyed with a lot of other ideas whilst creating the album, and as a result, (together) has arrived around half a year later. It serves as a collection of re-workings of Burst Apart tracks, collaborations and one new track, ‘Tongue Tied‘, spanning eight tracks and a whole hour play time.

The biggest thing that makes (together) instantly weaker than anything The Antlers have ever produced is the fact that their albums always seem like a whole piece of work, carefully constructed and put together in just the right way. (together) does not share that property, and as a result, it feels a bit too stitched together to really stand out.

‘Tongue Tied’ is undoubtedly the highlight of the EP, being the only genuinely new track on the album. It has a similar tone to that of Burst Apart while exchanging the subtle drum beat for an electronic drum sample. The track could have appeared on Burst Apart and fit in well. The re-workings of tracks such as ‘French Exit‘ and ‘I Don’t Want Love‘ work well to display the diversity of the band and the different directions that Burst Apart could have gone in. The latter is a stripped down version of the song that showcases Peter Silberman‘s haunting vocal work as best as any song they’ve done before.

Their cover of ‘VCR’ by The xx is an admirable effort, but The xx are so good at playing their material that I always feel like covers of their music can never do the tracks justice (case in point; Birdy). With a hazy atmosphere and synth-infused bleeps throughout, the track doesn’t reflect the minimalist feel of the original, but it maintains the soothing, naive feel of it.

The EP has three collaborations on it, with Nicole Atkins, Bear in Heaven and Neon Indian. They’re all re-workings of previous work from Burst Apart. The one that stands out the most is their collaboration with Bear in Heaven, where they have created a sprawling, 18-minute version of ‘Parenthesis‘. It sees the two bands creating a exhaustive jam session which they just so happened to get on tape. The track lacks focus and direction, but it’s nice to see what the two long-time tour buddies can do when left to their own devices.

Nicole Atkins‘ lower voice contracts well with Silberman‘s on ‘Hounds’, creating a soothing, moving piece that stands up against the original version well. When vocalising together, their voices don’t create the most ear-pleasing vocal harmonies, but when they’re turn taking the sound works well. Since the source material is so strong it works well together.

As a whole, (together) isn’t necessarily a bad collection of songs. It just seems to lack the focus, polish or direction that The Antlers show by the bucket load in their previous albums. (together) seems like a hard-sell to anyone who hasn’t already exhausted their previous discography first. Hardcore Antlers fans will no-doubt find a lot to enjoy, though. So there’s that.

6/10
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