Two years ago (almost to the day), we streamed Through The Dirt, a collection of a dozen emotionally devastating and beyond-their-years indie-tinged folk renderings crafted by an unknown trio called Antler House. By year’s end, the debut record in all its brooding and beautiful glory landed on our Best Albums Of 2014 list. Since that emotive outset, Antler House hasn’t exactly been lighting Milwaukee ablaze with its show schedule nor its promotional flare. Rather, just as they did when meticulously putting together Dirt in basements and a Barrington, Illinois factory-turned-studio, the guys in Antler House mired themselves in relative artistic seclusion—save for a few shows here and there—to record yet another gutting and gorgeous record. The only difference is, this one is much, much better.
Across The Waves is a seven-song salvo of raw expression that unfurls with bleary opener “Life Estate” and bleeds into “Wabbit,” a song about trying (and ultimately failing) to nurse an injured rabbit back to health. While singer-bassist (and sometimes acoustic guitarist) Sean Anderson’s penchant for mature and poetic lyrics is on par with those expelled in Dirt, his voice and the band’s musicianship have only improved between releases. With distant, bending guitars and a concrete rhythm section, songs like the near-seven-minute “Nitwit” and largely-instrumental “Leo” are aural journeys that do justice to Across The Waves’ ominous and nautical name. By the time album-ender “Make”—which, along with “Wabbit,” features accompaniment from Soul Low saxophonist Sean Hirthe—concludes with Anderson’s coarse screams of “make a promise,” Antler House has succeed in the tall task of making a record that’s better than the band’s impressive debut, and what’s sure to be one of Milwaukee’s best albums of the year in the process.
Antler House will put out its latest record Saturday night at Company Brewing in a show that features Ugly Brothers and also doubles as Paper Holland’s EP release. Before that show, listen to Across The Waves in its entirety, only at Milwaukee Record.