Antony & the Johnsons – [Album]

Wednesday, 11 February 2009

Some people are born with musical talent that is nurtured over time into something like brilliance. Others spend a lifetime working hard at achieving a level of ability that allows them to perform music outside of school amphitheaters and bowling alleys. Then there are those who are seemingly touched by the glowing finger of god and given some sort of miraculous gift that doesn't seem to make a lick of sense in the grand scheme of things.

Such is the case of Antony Hagerty, whose third album The Crying Light plunges head-first into murky waters only to emerge clear-eyed and pure by the final track. Hagerty has an extraordinary voice—one of the few that can actually live up to and beyond the true meaning of the word "extra-ordinary." It flutters, warbles, croons, cries, and does everything but fly around your head in circles and make a nest in your house. It's alive. It also conveys a kind of beautiful sadness that is somewhere between inspiring and completely devastating.

Much of Antony's work deals with metamorphosis and change, gender and longing. He is as much about the visual impact of his music and stage performances as he is the audio. Like visual artist and anti-fashion icon Leigh Gregory, Antony presents a contradiction of beauty, sadness and fear that can be a little unsettling. The Crying Light is largely comprised of torchy piano ballads and soul-inspired cabaret songs. It's a step back in sound from the more grandiose (and guest-star riddled) sound of 2005's I Am A Bird Now, but it's a step forward in songwriting – presenting something more direct and if you can believe it, even more heart-wrenching.

There is the piano, the rustle of background noise, an orchestral swirl, and the voice—melancholic to the point of bleakness. As much as this is Antony's record, it is also belongs to arranger Nico Muhly (who has worked with Bjork and Phillip Glass) who adds a kind of gothic unease and discordance underneath the swells of opaque beauty. But The Crying Light's bleakness is also counterpointed by its reveries. "Another World" and "Dust and Water" have a hymnal quality underneath the sparse and warm notes. It's a serious beauty of an album—one that explores the natural world in all of its violence and desperation but with a heavy reverence for the spirit and the possibility of redemption through honesty.


Antony and the Johnsons – “Another World” – [mp3]

The Crying Light is out now. Buy it on Amazon.

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