It’s always funny to me how easy it is to draw parallels between two completely unrelated things or events. In the case of the Antlers and their newest endeavor, Green to Gold, it’s very reminiscent of the last Beach Fossils album: Somersault (2017). Both groups made the album following a large gap in their discography. Both groups’ prior record was pretty moody and introspective. And when it came to the sound of their new record, both groups were drawn towards the likes of bright dream pop, baroque pop, and unexpected features; all with a glossy, shiny finish. But where some fans may be distraught by the shift in sound—specifically its lack of complexity—the record lands soundly on its feet, thanks to some luscious production and touching lyricism.
Though full of bright and folk-infused pop, the album begins a little more complex and typical of old Antlers projects. The introductory “Strawflower” is composed of looped guitar parts and layers upon layers of additional string instrumentation for what sounds like a more Southern, acoustic take on an orchestral piece. But while less atypical than the content that follows, it simply acts as a bridge from the group’s last effort, to this one. It’s still chock-full of nature-rich sound effects, beginning and ending with the echoed buzzing of Cicadas—later brought up on the title track. And it still utilizes a majority of the instrumentation found later on; just in a much fuller session.
Once we’re given a glimpse into the new, sunny reality we’ve entered, the glistening instrumentals and comforting vocals and lyrics never stop. Beginning with the wholesome “Wheels Roll Home,” we’re brought the idea of this warm and loving shelter. Though not described in detail, its obsession with the idea of coming home pairs well with dreamy guitar chords to leave you in a trance that will have you missing home, wherever you are.
This is compounded on later when we’re eventually given that in-depth look on the title track, “Green to Gold.” At certain points on the record—as in “Wheels Roll Home”—Silberman’s hushed vocals meld with the luminous sounds around him, but on “Green to Gold,” the only thing to usher his voice are some slow, shuffling drums and a surprisingly-funky, strolling bass line. The vibrant strings raise the mood of the track as the chorus comes in, but the lack of instrumental density ensures the focus is on his flawless description of the environment around him, and how it changes—i.e. “Going green to gold.”
In many ways that’s what this record is all about: change, and recognizing the aspects of reality you can’t entirely control. The fairly simple but jazzy cut, “It Is What It Is,” recognizes this just within its title. And though some claim it’s referencing the Trump presidency, I simply see it as an assuring message, though it could be taken in a more nihilistic direction. It also feature some pretty soulful saxophones, which aren’t really seen across the rest of the record, giving it that smooth, rich atmosphere to go with its poetic message.
The other fairly accepting song is “Stubborn Man.” Though more introspective than the universal message that “you can’t control everything,” it provides a real world example of just that. His inevitable stubbornness sometimes gets in the way because he’s “strong-willed” and “headstrong,” but he’s also “the only one who can get it done.” The song has echoes of Kanye’s older, self-aware moments, where he’s confident in himself, but recognizes the downfall of that mindset.
Though full of their standard melancholy, Green to Gold is a completely new look for the Antlers. The last seven years has given them glimpses into topics and sounds not heard from the group yet—like the exploration of “home,” and the focus on basic, acoustic production. But while it lacks complexity, the production is half of what makes the record great. Guitar chords splash with color and the overwhelming wall of pure sunlight it emits borderlines on a new approach to shoegaze. The Antlers gave us plenty to ponder on, and plenty of support to do it.