Music / Hospice

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But something kept me standing by that hospital bed
I should have quit, but instead I took care of you
You made me sleep and uneven, and I didn't believe them
When they told me that there was no saving you.
"Kettering"

Hospice is the third studio album by Brooklyn indie band The Antlers with Sharon Van Etten making a guest appearance on vocals. It is the first Concept Album attempted by the band, as well as the first album released as a full group rather than frontman Peter Silberman's project. It was originally released in March of 2009, although demand was so great that it was officially reissued in August of that year.

The album's story tells of the doomed relationship between a hospital worker and a terminal cancer patient. The disease has left the patient in a deranged state and prone to violent mood swings, who she takes out any frustrations on the hospital worker who, despite the abuse, loves and supports her until her inevitable death. According to Silberman, this is all a metaphor for an emotionally abusive relationship, which is autobiographical to at least some extent.

Widely considered the band's masterpiece, Hospice went on to receive critical acclaim upon release, praising the lyrics, instrumentation and the album's ability to emotionally destroy listeners. Coming from the tail-end of the decade, Hospice is considered one of the greatest of the 2000s and, for some, of all time, citing it as the In the Aeroplane Over the Sea of today.

Tracklist

  1. "Prologue" (2:35)
  2. "Kettering" (5:10)
  3. "Sylvia" (5:27)
  4. "Atrophy" (7:40)
  5. "Bear" (3:54)
  6. "Thirteen" (3:11)
  7. "Two" (5:56)
  8. "Shiva" (3:45)
  9. "Wake" (8:44)
  10. "Epilogue" (5:25)

Principal members

  • Peter Silberman - Vocals, guitar, accordion, harmonica, harp, keyboards
  • Darby Cicci - Trumpet, bowed banjo
  • Michael Lerner - Drums, percussion
  • Justin Stivers - Bass
  • Sharon Von Etten - Vocals

Let's open up those tropes:

  • Album Intro Track: "Prologue" begins with sounds of respirators and heartbeat monitors before the instrumentation kicks in. This establishes both the setting and an atmosphere of despair and fear before transitioning into "Kettering".
  • All There in the Manual: the liner notes for "Prologue," an instrumental, outline a bit more backstory to the patients condition and its psychological effects, and turns a couple of lyrics in later tracks into a Meaningful Echo. Of course, you'd only get this if you purchased the physical version (or looked up the lyrics on the Antler's website)
  • Anti Love Album
  • Arc Words: "You're screaming and cursing."
  • Bastard Girlfriend: The metaphor implies that this is what the cancer patient represents.
  • Breaking the Fourth Wall: The ending to "Wake" seems to be Silberman directly giving advice to the listener:
    Don't be scared to speak,
    Don't speak with someone's tooth,
    Don't bargain when you're weak,
    Don't take that sharp abuse.
    Some patients can't be saved, but that burden's not on you.

    Don't ever let anyone tell you you deserve that
  • Call-Forward: The melody line for the final lines of "Atrophy" is used again for the final lines of "Wake".
  • Concept Album
  • Downer Ending: The patient's death, and the worker being unable to get over it.
  • Epic Instrumental Opener: "Prologue", which establishes the hospital setting.
  • Face Death with Dignity: Subverted in the most gutturally heartbreaking manner. "Thirteen" is told from the perspective of the patient as they knowingly near death, and they're begging the worker to save them.
  • Fading into the Next Song
  • Foregone Conclusion: The fact that we know what happens in the end only makes things so much worse.
  • Freudian Excuse: The cancer patient, if "Two" is anything to go by.
  • Good Girls Avoid Abortion: Averted in "Bear". "The bear" inside the dying wife's "stomach" heavily implies that she's pregnant. The singer's comments imply they decided an abortion would be best because of their unhealthy relationship.
    We'll put an end to him
    We'll make all the right appointments
    No one ever has to know
    Well we're not scared of making caves
    Or finding food for him to eat
    We're terrified of one another
    And terrified of what that means
  • Grief Song: An entire album, but "Shiva", "Wake" and "Epilogue" are more direct examples, with the narrator trying to deal with the patient's death.
  • Ill Girl: Who the narrator falls in love with.
  • Love Nostalgia Song: Sort of subverted with "Kettering", which is about the singer wishing he hadn't fallen in love with someone in the first place.
  • Non-Appearing Title: "Kettering," "Atrophy," and "Thirteen".
  • One-Word Title: The album and its tracks.
  • Precision F-Strike:
    • "Bear"
    But we'll make only quick decisions and you'll just keep me in the waiting room,
    When all the while I'll know we're fucked and not getting un-fucked soon
    • "Two"
    Daddy was an asshole, he fucked you up
  • Rock Me, Amadeus!: The first few bars of "Bear" are are taken almost exactly from "Twelve Variation on 'Ah vous dirai-je, Maman'" by Mozart (aka, "Twinkle Twinkly Little Star").
  • Short Title: Long, Elaborate Subtitle: It doesn't appear on the album's back cover, but the liner notes show that all of the songs do have alternate titles which serve to describe the song a little more:
    • "Prologue": "Hospice"
    • "Kettering": "Bedside Manner"
    • "Sylvia": "Sliding Curtains Shining Children's Heads"
    • "Atrohpy": "Rings Ill-Fitting"
    • "Bear": "Children Become Their Parents Become Their Children"
    • "Thirteen": "Sylvia Speaks"
    • "Two": "I Would Have Saved Her If I Could"
    • "Shiva": "Portacaths Switched"
    • "Wake": "Letting People In"
    • "Epilogue": "Sylvia Alive In Nightmares"
  • Switching P.O.V.: "Thirteen" is sung from the patient's perspective, and gives insight into her fear of her oncoming death.
    Can't you stop this all from happening?
    Close the doors and keep them out

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