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

Greg Fleming: Taken (LucaDiscs/Rhythmethod)

Greg Fleming: Taken (LucaDiscs/Rhythmethod)

The excellent liner notes by New Zealand's Greg Fleming (with lyrics and reflections on the genesis of these songs) tell their own story about why Taken never appeared in '95 after the excellent... > Read more

Van Morrison: What's Wrong With This Picture? (Blue Note)

Van Morrison: What's Wrong With This Picture? (Blue Note)

Wordsworth, more fool him, peaked early. The first edition of his groundbreaking Lyrical Ballads collection with fellow poet Coleridge was published in 1798 when he was 28. In the following decades... > Read more

Elsewhere at Elsewhere

Elton John: Tumbleweed Connection (1970)

Elton John: Tumbleweed Connection (1970)

There are some images which are imprinted in my rock’n’roll memory -- one was when the young Elton John played at Auckland’s Western Springs Stadium in October 1971.... > Read more

THE CORNERSTONE COLLECTION (2011): The 101 building blocks of any serious CD collection

THE CORNERSTONE COLLECTION (2011): The 101 building blocks of any serious CD collection

In early 2011 I was invited by JB HiFi to collate -- for a giveaway booklet through their New Zealand stores -- the 101 albums I thought which should be in any serious music collection. That was... > Read more