Antony and the Johnsons
Listening to Antony Hegarty croon through a chamber-pop dirge, you can virtually feel mascara-flecked tears running down his face. Despite his perpetually aloof stance, the Lou Reed collaborator’s tone reveals a glimmer of hope peeking through his typically dark disposition. On his latest collection of esoteric vignettes, The Crying Light, Hegarty’s anxious quiver continues to support his damaged-diva persona, evidenced by eccentric ballads like “Epilepsy Is Dancing” and “Another World” as well as the title track.
This third album by Antony and the Johnsons is dedicated to Butoh pioneer Kazuo Ohno, whose grotesquely costumed profile graces (plagues?) the cover. It’s fitting that an old soul like Antony Hegarty would refer to him as his “art parent,” though, at age 102, Ohno is many years beyond the young British native, born in 1971. Hegarty’s mysterious, asexual posturing and transgender tenor made him the perfect voice to lead Hercules and Love Affair’s disco revival last year. But with the Johnsons, the pulse slows to a meditative séance.
Free of the overzealous guest appearances saturating 2005’s Mercury Prize–winning I Am a Bird Now, Hegarty establishes himself as one of pop music’s most distinct voices. Though bleak, the band often alludes to a broader musicality. The soulful ballad “Aeon” plays like a queer take on Otis Redding’s “I’ve Been Loving You Too Long.” In contrast, the album’s symphonic closing track, “Everglade”—boasting arrangements care of classical wunderkind Nico Muhly—is ripe noir-soundtrack fodder. This is best listened to alone at night, preferably while sobbing.
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