The elegantly mellifluous but masterfully reserved manner in which this album, the Brooklyn-based band’s fifth studio set, opens proves to set the tone for its entire duration.
‘Familiars’ is a record that proceeds very much at its own pace, with songs slowly meshing rather than bursting into life. It is a far cry from the angular aches of The Antlers’ breakthrough release, 2009’s ‘Hospice’. Where once Arcade Fire comparisons abounded, one might now legitimately reference Al Green or John Martyn.
The biggest change this time around is the presence of a nuanced gaggle of horns across much of the material, almost functioning as a second vocalist on occasions. The arrangements are an exercise in restraint, a perfect foil for the slinkier stylings of 2011’s ‘Burst Apart’, from which ‘Familiars’ feels a natural evolution.
The notion of a second voice is explored fully in the lyrics, with frontman Peter Silberman opting to write of a world in which we can appear to ourselves, offering blunt advice that our self-awareness filters.
That the band were poring over a selection of seminal jazz and soul records in the early stages of recording this album is neatly reflected in the loose, hypnotic shuffle of tracks like ‘Hotel’ and ‘Intruders’ and the warmly enveloping ‘Parade’.
The latter is arguably the pinnacle of ‘Familiars’, an emphatic, soaring vocal from Silberman sitting atop a shimmering Muscle Shoals swagger. This is an album that can make you weepy in the hazy blur of the wee small hours, and euphoric in the fuzzy afternoon sun.
Words: Gareth James
- - -
- - -