Thursday, May 1, 2014

Antler House Go the Subtle Route on "Through The Dirt"

By Evan Rytlewski
antler house
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In the minds of most listeners, folk will always be intrinsically rural music, the sound of wide-open expanses, simple living and America as it used to be. But at least in Wisconsin, that’s not the case. Much of the best folk music in the state comes from Milwaukee, and more specifically one of the city’s most crowded, decidedly urban neighborhoods: Riverwest, where on almost any night of the week you can find an assortment of songwriters strumming something or other at the neighborhood’s many bars and public spaces. Here folk comes in all shapes and sizes, from the Dylan and Baez traditionalists, folk-rock bands in the Neil Young mold, indie rockers with banjos and punks who came to Woody Guthrie by way of Social Distortion. In Riverwest, folk is the muse that never stops giving, and I’m always amazed by how its artists continually find original spins on familiar American sounds.

Case in point: Antler House, a trio that’s been tucked away at the bottom of Linneman’s Riverwest Inn bills for a while now. On paper, their vaguely indie-ish spin on folk-rock has been done dozens of times over, but in execution it’s distinctly theirs. Their debut album Through the Dirt, which they release Saturday night with a free show at Yield, is a deliberately mellow, unhurried listen, and a subtle rejection of the overbearing showmanship of today’s popular stomp-and-holler folk acts. These songs could make a scene if they wanted to—singer Sean Anderson’s guitar often seems raring to go—but instead they’re content to kick back and take their time, luxuriating in their own rough-hewn prettiness. Tracks like “New Blood” and “Little Monsters” even hint at Grizzly Bear’s top hat-tilting waltzes, but without the fussy formality that guides Grizzly Bear’s compositions. This is low-key stuff—4 a.m., still passing around the bottle even though the buzz wore off hours ago music.

Through the Dirt is streaming at the Milwaukee Record through this weekend, after which it’ll be available through Antler House’s Bandcamp page. They’ll share their Saturday CD release show at Yield with Soul Low and Ugly Brothers.

Update: You can stream the album below.

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