The Antlers | Putting The Dog To Sleep

2 Comments 12 | July | 2011

I have found more than one occasion this year to applaud The Antlers most recent album, Burst Apart.  Currently sitting atop my 2011 list of Top Albums, it proves a dense fusion of melancholy, yet powerful musicianship.  Start to finish, the NYC trio tender deep emotion for audiences listening below the surface of already brilliant sound waves.

While each of the tracks is deserving of high praise, I’m reserving this opportunity to fawn on the finale.  In the stunningly beautiful closer, “Putting the Dog to Sleep,” Peter Silberman’s lyrics are an obvious metaphor for a human bond that now lies in tatters, waiting only for finality.  A concept employed frequently on the album Hospice, this penchant for health related symbolism is reinforced with the lines:

“While my trust in you / is a dog with a broken leg / tendons too torn to beg / for you to let me back in”

Silberman’s lyrics linger in an eyes wide open moment when the undeniable truth of a broken relationship becomes nearly impossible to bear.   It’s a moment when you yearn for reassurance, something to keep your soul from free-falling, but all you find is an infinite well of darkness.  A moment in which you actually hold something that is dying, knowing there is absolutely nothing you can do to stop it.  Painful, and utterly heartbreaking.

The harrowing experience is scored by cutting guitar bursts and a ghostly, ebbing organ that maintains a funeral procession feel and compounds the tragedy and despair.  Whereas a majority of listeners will likely connect to the metaphor, the song hits me in a much more literal sense, reminding me of the day that I held my childhood dog as we put him to sleep in our backyard.  As pitiful as it may seem, the song’s opening plea gives me chills and on numerous occasions has conjured such vivid memories that I nearly had to wipe tears from my cheeks.

“Prove to me I’m not going to die alone / put your arm around my collar bone / and open the door”

Clearly this song has a special meaning to me, but its message is so universally relevant that I can’t imagine anyone not connecting on some level.  Adrift in a sea of sorrow, Silberman’s haunting lyrics pull us overboard, into the depths, our own emotions swirling inside and no hope of rescue.  And despite its dark nature, I continue to play “Putting the Dog to Sleep” over and over, somewhat extraordinary for a music snob who plows through albums by the dozen.  Exceedingly beautiful, it plugs directly into my heart and is hands-down the best song of the year.

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What is your favorite “sad” album?
Who didn’t cry at the end of Old Yeller?!
Ok, I never saw that movie, but I did read White Fang.  Trying.  Not to cry.  On keyboard.

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