Antlerand - Branches (Cover Artwork)
Staff Pick


Branches (2006)

Sound Family

Often when a band tries to do too much, stretching themselves too thin, they fail to ever really do any one thing well. The emphasis is more on variety than writing quality songs, and because of that, the specific band or album will suffer. Antlerand is a band who firmly has their bearings, though, and can offer a great amount of variety while keeping things fluid and keeping the songs tight.

Transitioning often between epic post-rock crescendos, lush indie pop vocals, and some country twang, each song is something new, and something interesting, that if nothing else, is completely different than the song before it. And while that can sound like a recipe for a scatter-brained effort that never really gains an identity, Branches pulls everything in for a sound that's both fresh and invigorating.

By the time the album ends, you'd probably wouldn't believe how it even started, with shimmering guitars coursing on a path to an epic rise and fall complete with some violin inclusion that really helps to set the mood and pull everything together towards the end. But not a band to stay in a routine for long, "Now It's a Year" is the profile of that lush indie pop I mentioned earlier. The whimsical vocal style compliments the laid back piano and keyboard approach, and the focus on drumming helps give that extra dynamic to elevate the song into that much better status.

The lack of ability to settle on one style rears its had again on the very next song, "Brighter Rays," as the somber, delicate tones of the guitar and some electronic sampling guide the low, unobtrusive vocals until the rhythm meets a bouncier section, and the piano makes its reentry to give some much needed melody. "On Their Screen" marks the passing of the album's midway point, and does its best to inject some real country flavor to the album. Quick acoustic chord progressions and the inclusion of banjo add yet another element to the band's songwriting, and miraculously, it doesn't feel even the slightest bit out of place in the ebb and flow of this album.

The instrumental closer, "Three (In a Tree)" almost deserves a review unto itself -- an eleven-minute journey that encompasses all the beauty, grandeur, and diversity the rest of the album had to offer, and magnifies it to a point that becomes truly special. The guitars are nothing short of gorgeous, the drumming tactful and dynamic, the sounds everywhere from jazzy to almost metal, and what's more -- it works to absolute perfection.

Anterland prove, song and song again, that putting a myriad of sounds and styles on one disc, without it sounding scatter-brained or pointless is not only possible, but it can be done in a manner that's nothing short of impressive. No matter what sounds come out of the next full-length this band produces, one thing is definite -- I'll be listening.