Posted on January 26th, 2009 (2:28 pm) by Joe McCarthy

Once again, there is a copious amount of hype surrounding the latest release from Antony & the Johnsons. What is it about Antony that makes people love him so? Honestly, I'm not really sure because while I can appreciate the technical aspect of Antony Hegarty’s voice, I've never fallen in love with one of his albums.

There are points where I suppose that I can understand the appeal, but it leaves me wondering what exactly is the appeal for most people? Do they genuinely enjoy Antony? Are they getting something out of his voice that I am not? Come to think of it, people always talk about how emotive he is and how the sound of his voice can bring tears to the eye. But is there something more to it that I am missing?

With this mindset, I step into the world of The Crying Light. I am ready and prepared to try to open myself up to something that I don't understand.

Before I even press play on The Crying Light, I decide to try to set the mood and prepare myself for the album by listening to the one Antony & The Johnsons song that I have really loved, “Cripple And The Starfish.” So far, it is probably the closest thing to a flawless song that Antony has been involved in. The pain expressed in that song is real, and Antony makes you sympathize with him, even if the situations that are be evoked are not something that the listener is familiar with.

After coming back to Antony and the Johnson’s latest release, the first thing that I notice is how everything feels incredibly rich and lush, these are sounds that I have been immersed in all day because I just received six new Beach Boys albums in the mail, but something sounds off about this album. Perhaps hollow might be an appropriate word to describe how I feel about this record…. No, wait. Scratch that. It doesn't sound hollow at all.

No, for some reason something may have just clicked with me. Antony is one of those singers, like Jamie Stewart or Bob Dylan in Blood on the Tracks, that means every word that comes out of their mouths. The music is absolutely heartfelt. Even when the lines are overly emotional and melodramatic or the vocals are over the top, you understand that it has a purpose in advancing the ideas that the artist is putting forward. In the case of Antony, you can tell that he loves the craft, and that conviction seems to carry over to the listener.

The entire album rings with a sense of regret-tinged nostalgia, but never is the regret overbearing. It is balanced by a sense of joy, something that has perhaps been missing from previous albums by Antony & the Johnsons. This album gives you something personal, but also worldly. Something theatrical and whimsical pervades this album and even in its saddest moments it will leave listeners with a smirk upon their face, despite the possibility of a tear in their eye.

I still disagree with the band’s decision to rely on Antony's voice to carry The Crying Light. To me, the moments when Antony’s voice parallels the instrumentation of his band are the strongest on the album and perhaps among the best that Antony & the Johnsons have ever had. There is something that allows songs like "Kiss My Name" to connect with me; the sense that there is something deeper going on in the music is exhilarating. The melody bounces and moves with the same mixed feelings that seem to pervade the entire record. The instruments are never really sure whether they are supposed to be showing bliss or remorse. To me, that is something wonderful. This lack of definition is what makes most of this album worth listening to.

Track List:

1. Her Eyes Are Underneath the Ground (4:24)
2. Epilepsy Is Dancing (2:42)
3. One Dove (5:34)
4. Kiss My Name (2:48)
5. The Crying Light (3:18)
6. Another World (4:00)
7. Daylight and the Sun (6:21)
8. Aeon (4:35)
9. Dust and Water (2:50)
10. Everglade (2:58)
11. My Lord My Love (Bonus Track) (3:17)

antony and the johnsons
Purchase at: Amazon | eMusic

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