There’s something different about summers in places with long winters. The days, with their impossibly late sunsets, stretch on forever. But the months seem fleeting, because another long, dark winter is always around the corner. It’s a feeling and a cycle that stretches well into adulthood, and it’s the basis of the new album from The Antlers. Green to Gold documents that dichotomy, which makes it the perfect soundtrack for a lazy summer morning.
During a round of hearing problems, the Antlers’ main songwriter, Peter Silberman, left Brooklyn and his band behind to move Upstate-ish, seeking a bit more quiet, and ended up recording a solo album, Impermanence. The tour for that record was followed by surgery on his vocal chords and a separation from music, during which Silberman found new hobbies and, eventually, a reconnection with bandmate and drummer Michael Lerner. The result has the duet, along with a small group of musicians, providing an unhurried soundscape. The record begins with “Strawflower,” an instrumental full of keys, guitar and natural sounds that slowly builds as it eases the listener into the album. The next track, “Wheels Roll Home,” is all about what’s missing – “But for now, we work with our time apart/With a tired mind, with a hungry heart.” That sense of longing could either come from life on the road or the pandemic (the songs on Green to Gold were written between 2017 and 2020), but the anticipation inherent in seeing a loved one after an extended absence remains the same.
The songs on Green to Gold are always given room to breathe, even when the subject matter isn’t quite as relaxed. “Stubborn Man” is about, well, just that – “Maybe I’m headstrong/Iffy, but rarely wrong.” It’s perhaps the words of a strict (if somewhat reluctant) bandleader, but Silberman gives his musicians room to work, including a lovely cello/piano bridge. “Just One Sec” is a bit more austere in its arrangement, running on a clean electric guitar melody (along with a little bit of slide), as the singer asks for his own bit of space – “Free me from the version you prefer I’d be.”
The uneven passage of time, though, is the overarching theme of the album. “Solstice” remarks upon it in its first line, “The week went slow, the year flew by.” The song goes on to describe a childhood friendship dictated by the passing of seasons – “We can see in the dark with our sunset sight/We delay the dusk.” Having grown up in Upstate New York myself, this is what we spent countless sweaty July nights trying to do – deny the darkness. But the title track warns of what we always knew was coming – a long, grey winter. The song, led by the rhythm section, follows the passage of a year as the warmer months fade – “So, summer’s on the outs,” Silberman almost whispers, as if hoping not to scare the sun away. But the loss of warmth is unavoidable – “By early afternoon, we’re losing light.” As the tune winds to its end, with guitar and piano gently playing off each other, green inevitably returns to the earth, and we know that summer, short as it may be, is on its way again.
Song I Can’t Wait to Here Live: “Green to Gold,” a gorgeous, shimmery seven minutes.
Green to Gold was produced and engineered by Peter Silberman, mixed by Nicholas Principe and mastered by Gus Elg. All songs were written by Silberman and Lerner. Additional musicians include Jon Natchez (bass clarinet), Will Harvey (violin, viola), Brent Arnold (cello), David Moore (banjo), Dave Harrington (slide guitar), Kelly Pratt (baritone sax, flute, clarinet, french horn) and Tim Mislock (guitar).
Order Green to Gold here: https://www.musicglue.com/theantlersmusic/merch