Editors' pick

Antony & the Johnsons


Editorial Review

Bill Friskics-Warren wrote about Antony and the Johnsons in January 2009 for The Washington Post:

Unearthly may be the best word for Antony Hegarty's voice, a supremely expressive instrument that can sigh like a cello and moan with the mournful sensuality of a saxophone.

He does both on the opening passage from his band's third full-length album, intoning the words "her eyes" in a soaring quaver before swooping down to croon the phrase "are underneath the ground" to complete the line. Strains of piano and violin heave empathetically behind him, joined by woodwinds and guitar, on much of the record's avant-leaning chamber pop.

Where "I Am a Bird Now," the album's 2005 predecessor, contemplated the complexities of sexual identity, "The Crying Light" laments the vanishing natural landscape and the hand that people have had in its disappearance. "I need another world / This one's nearly gone," Antony cries on the disc's first track. Later, over ghostly guitar feedback and a hymnlike piano chorus, he sings of how he'll miss the things of this Earth as if he's preparing to leave it.

Arranged by composer Nico Muhly, the album's 10 tracks have a contemporary classical cast, even if several, including the folk-tinged "Epilepsy Is Dancing," also evince an economy and melodicism that veers closer to pop song form. Hooked by a stately electric guitar figure, "Aeon" has elements of classic rock while other tracks evoke the prismatic chamber blues of Van Morrison's "Veedon Fleece." These and other antecedents aside, Antony's outpourings are not of this world.