If you’ve listened to either of The Antlers’ two records over the past three years, and if you come into Port St. Willow’s Holiday with the knowledge that Willow’s lone member Nick Principe has worked with the Antlers’ frontman Peter Silberman, it’ll be pretty difficult to listen through Holiday without thinking of the Antlers. While on the surface this may read as a criticism or a complaint, by the time this re-released version of this 2012 album finishes, it will become apparent that it isn’t.
That’s because, while there are a number of sonic touchstones shared by both projects — lofty, falsetto vocals, patient yet anxious atmospherics, a very human and deceptively warm sense of melancholy — Port St. Willow and the Antlers feel like brothers. Not the type where one rides the coattails of the other, but the type where they forge their own paths but rub elbows because of their identical parentage. Songs like “Amawalk” or “Tourist” borrow a heavy sense of passion and drama from Principe’s haunting voice, just like Silberman, but Principe doubles down on rising above the swirling atmospheric maelstroms he conjures, as opposed to diving in, as Silberman is wont to do. It’s a subtle difference, but one that sets the identities of the two projects apart.
When Holiday was released in 2012, it was right around the same time as the Antlers’ Undersea EP, and it may have been that the shoulder-rubbing release dates meant Holiday was lost in the shuffle. So the re-release serves the purpose of allowing the Port St. Willow project its own space to breath, and it features a new, 25 minute (!) track called “Soft Light Rush” that encapsulates the Port St. Willow project while never feeling overlong in its running length. Principe’s vocals are layered on top of each other in harrowing, piercing harmonies; syrup-thick chords swell and contract; moods shift and change with subtlety and grace. And the melodic touches further distance themselves from Silberman’s project. In that way, “Soft Light Rush” and the Holiday re-release explain exactly what they want to: that Port St. Willow is its own project, and one to watch at that.
Essential Tracks: “Amawalk”, “Tourist”, and “Soft Light Rush”