THE ANTLERS: IN THE ATTIC OF THE UNIVERSE (2007)
1) In The Attic; 2) Look!; 3) On The Roof; 4) Shh!; 5) The Universe Is Going To Catch You; 6) The Carrying Arms; 7) In The Snow; 8) Stairs To The Attic.
With a 26-minute running length, one and only one person to mind the writing, playing, and recording, and only three actual songs floating in an atmosphere of lightweight ambience, you'd think the basic conceptual idea behind this recording — an expression of admiration for the infinity-bound vastness of the universe and recognizal of one person's insignificance in the face of it — is a bit... eh... a bit too bulgy, shall we say, for such an album's tight britches.
Fortunately, Peter Silberman has enough taste and, shall we say, originality not to go about it in a corny 'Dust In The Wind'-like manner. Few things are more stupid than assuming a grand prophetic tone when you admit your own pettiness, and Silberman has intentionally chosen a suitably petty approach. With but a few exceptions (such as the climactic third minute of 'On The Roof'), In The Attic Of The Universe is a very quiet record; like its predecessor, it almost begs you to let it pass by unnoticed, and, of course, the right thing to do is exactly the opposite.
Because the primary musical-and-vocal hook of 'In The Attic' (later reprised on electric guitar in 'Stairs To The Attic') is a simple, but wonderful bit well worthy of a seasoned popmeister like Jeff Lynne or folk-rockmeister like Neil Young (regularly sanctioned comparisons are to Neutral Milk Hotel, but why not go straight ahead to the primary source?). It fuses together melancholy and beauty-admiration in just a few perfectly-strummed/sung notes so well that I'd be tempted to call it a stroke of genius, except I must first deal with the annoying feeling of déjà vu that keeps nagging me — just a quick browse through my 10,000 hours-worth of stored music and I'll be right back with you on that one.
An even better song, though — actual song rather than one great idea repeated many times over — is 'The Universe Is Going To Catch You', with a chimes-and-falsetto chorus that is totally unforgettable after you have played it at least once with the proper volume levels. It may just be the lightest-sounding, most flutteringly-butterflying song with such a ponderous name ever recorded — or, at least, a worthy contender — and its presence on the record alone is guaranteed to dissolve any possible accusations of pretense and pomp.
It is only too bad that most of the other tracks constitute nothing but mildly pleasant atmospheric filler — brief instrumental links ('Look!'; 'The Carrying Arms', a pointless exercise in backwards tape-playing), amateurish fun with keyboard programming ('Shh!' — I can just imagine someone giving a professional recitation of "Twinkle Twinkle Little Star" over its first two minutes), or vocal numbers that are not centered around any sort of actual composing ('In The Snow'). None of this gets out of control for too long, or with too much arrogance, and it is quite possible to convince yourself that it's all part of the overall charm, but... well, to me, a more economical solution is just to think of it as an idealistic 20-year old amateur messing around with equipment. Talented, but way too idealistic.
Still, I see no reason not to encourage all of us with a thumbs up that this ultra-brief record definitely deserves for the two abovementioned excellent songs and a general atmosphere that is not at all off-putting, despite boasting every prerogative to be so.
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