BEST OF ELSEWHERE 2009 Antony and the Johnsons: The Crying Light (EMI)

 |   |  1 min read

Antony and the Johnsons: Daylight and the Sun
BEST OF ELSEWHERE 2009 Antony and the Johnsons: The Crying Light (EMI)

In a lecture to some university music students recently I attempted to explain what an all-inclusive category "rock culture" has become: alongside hip-hop, pop, alt.country, metal and so on, it also includes artists as dispirate as Leonard Cohen, Bjork, Rod Stewart and Amy Winehouse -- and even Antony Hegarty who is the ethereal voice up-front here, and who sings back-up with Lou Reed.

Quite where you locate his fragile balladry is a problem: it is art-house, chamber music with a gloomy cabaret quality -- and sounds like very little else in contemporary music.

The previous A&J album I Am A Bird Now was much acclaimed and won Britain's prestigious Mercury Award in 2005 (He was born in Britain but has been a longtime New Yorker, which seems his natural home).

His fragile, high vocals are here deployed on an even more melancholy collection of songs which are stripped right back to essentials, and his emotions seem even more naked. Death, the passage of time, images from the natural world, loss and loneliness are all essayed here ("I need another place, will there be peace?" is a typical expression), and as cellos scrape and woodwind conjure up emotional discomfort you are transported to his strange and unsettling world.

If that all sounds alarmingly glum it isn't, his voice is equally elevating, and songs such as Daylight and the Sun have an exquisite pop-cum-Broadway feel with an almost oceanic shift of mood and melody. Everglade is a discreetly orchestrated piece with lonesome flute, and Aeon has a slow soul quality as he extends to an anxious and desperate shout: "Hold that man I love so much".

It is unlikely Antony will ever be widely embraced in the way that Cohen and Bjork have been, but his is a rare and special voice and these stately, passionate and undeniably beautiful songs will impress themselves deeply on those who take the time.

Just 10 songs in 40 minutes . . . and quite extraordinary. 

Share It

Your Comments

nathan graves - Feb 6, 2009

a special voice in the wilderness and weary world i think too.

post a comment

More from this section   Music articles index

The Courtneys: The Courtneys (Conquest of Noise/Flying In)

The Courtneys: The Courtneys (Conquest of Noise/Flying In)

Dunno about you, but sometimes when you've heard enough polished pop you just want a bit of fun-infused, lo-fi, unschooled but thoroughly enjoyable pop-rock where fast strummed, chiming guitars and... > Read more

Various Artists: Naga; New Music for Gamelan (Rattle)

Various Artists: Naga; New Music for Gamelan (Rattle)

Those of us lucky enough to have been to Java or Bali -- and who have ventured further than the beach or pool for cultural experiences -- will attest to the extraordinary sound of a gamelan... > Read more

Elsewhere at Elsewhere

GUEST WRITER SARAH JANE ROWLAND goes back to Berlin of the Cold War

GUEST WRITER SARAH JANE ROWLAND goes back to Berlin of the Cold War

Nunnally Johnson’s Cold War drama Night People (1954) opens with the words "Berlin Today" superimposed over a shot of the four flags of the city’s occupying forces. The... > Read more

KATE BUSH; A LIFE OF SURPRISES (Chrome Dreams DVD)

KATE BUSH; A LIFE OF SURPRISES (Chrome Dreams DVD)

When the frequently reclusive Kate Bush reappeared recently with her album Director's Cut -- on which she returned to 11 of her earlier songs to revise them -- there was the inevitable flurry of... > Read more