on 25 January 2009
I am a Bird and the eponymous début album are 2 of the outstanding albums of recent years but I have to say I wasn't sure how Antony Hegarty could follow them. Would it just be more of the same and would I eventually tire of that extraordinary voice ? Well the answer to both questions is no.This record has a charming, pastoral tone to it rather than the Gothic of its predecessors. There's a lightness , even sunniness, and confidence to it which are a palpable progression from the earlier albums. Stand out tracks , which most reviews seem to agree on( apart from the reviewer immediately above me !)are Epilepsy is Dancing and Aeon.
on 19 June 2009
Antony and his brilliant Johnsons can't put a foot wrong in my opinion and consistently turn out music of the highest quality. This latest release isn't quite as striking on the first few listens as the Mercury Prize winning I am a Bird Now from 2005, but I think it does benefit though from having more of Antony in it and less reliance on collaborations with other artists. The more you listen to their music the more you get out of it and The Crying Light is no exception.
'Hope There's Someone' is fast becoming a common song to play at funerals. Antony Hegarty, the voice behind the tearjerker, doesn't make too much of that. "It's a song for the living, not a tribute to the dead," he told the Guardian a month back. Thing is, those playing the song for a loved one are only choosing it for one reason: because it can make a grown man cry. It's the combination of Hegarty's deep, soulful voice with inclusion of a soft, chiming piano, and nothing else. That's what makes it so moving and with a song like that, you shouldn't have to find the true meaning in it, you should just let it do what it pleases to you. Many people hate Antony & the Johnsons purely on the basis of that song. Others seek refuge from a hard day in its gentle warmth. And whether Antony realises it or not, people will tackle 'The Crying Light' with a similar attitude to how they took to his breakthrough song. And once again, it'll make them cry.
But meanings are easier to seek out with this album. Maybe because of what Antony's revealed in his interviews, or maybe it's the feeling you eventually get from hearing this downbeat, truly depressing beginning turn into a triumphant glow of self-affirmed glory, Hegarty never sounding so obviously happy. In his third album, he becomes the honest figure instead of a star who shadows himself in his identity and interests. Here, we see his personality. For such a large part of you record, you feel you can understand the man, someone who's most likely the complete opposite to you. When he breaks free from routine to triumphantly gasp "that man I love SO MUCH" in 'Aeon', you feel like he's only centimetres from the side of you, giving everything he has to you. It's such an integral segment of the album, so unexpected it makes you gasp in surprise. Then comes the shivers.
It's refreshing to hear Antony back behind his piano, with little else to focus on. A full band appear regularly, perhaps preventing the open stance Hegarty takes from becoming too much to take, by adding a less personal touch with their soothing instrumental parts. Last year, we found Antony surrounded by disco balls and electronic grooves. It gave us one of the most enjoyable listens of 2008, shedding a whole new light into his already impressive career, but it also forced us to want the more exposed, heartfelt side of him return to the limelight.
The four year wait has been worth it. Hegarty swings between positive and negative emotions, from the saddening opener 'Her Eyes Are Underneath the Ground' to that testament of the steps he's taken in 'Aeon', he never falters in exposing a feeling we weren't expecting to be introduced to. It's his most sensible, mature work to date and the perfectly-produced full band parts reflect this. He freely gives an almost foreign, unheard of sound in 'Dust And Water' one minute, and then the next he returns to delicate tones in closer 'Everglade', with a plethora of strings and horns progressing the song from sitting pretty as a traditional ballad.
A tribute to Kazuo Ohno, a figure commonly associated with a dance form (Butoh) Hegarty has fallen in love with, the album hits its peak early on during 'Epilepsy Is Dancing' and in similar style to the form of dance, its free movement is where the appeal stems from. "Cut me in quadrants, leave me in the corner" pleads Antony during the opening stage of the album in which it hasn't yet taken off into it's positive vibes. A tender build-up only adds to this and you get the feeling Antony knows it.
He probably knows exactly what sort of an impact 'The Crying Light' will have on us all. As much as he'd cower at the idea, its greatest moments will be played at funerals to commence the waterworks. But other listeners will do nothing but respect the incredible structure the album has; songs sound so organised, so practised. Four years it may have taken but you'd be willing to wait a decade for Antony to top this.
on 31 May 2009
If you were of a critical mind, there might be scope to say that this disc is a little 'samey' without, for example, a rocky number like 'Fistful of Love' from his previous CD, but I think this one is even better than I Am a Bird Now, and I love I Am a Bird Now. One exquisite song after another, buy it now, enjoy it forever.
on 15 December 2008
As with Antony's previous releases, 'I am a Bird Now' and the 'Another World' EP, this is a totally engrossing experience. Though this time the arrangements are lusher, more expressive and generally just far superior to anything that has accompanied his voice before making for his most mesmerising work to date. This is avant garde pop music of the highest order right up there with Kate Bush and Bjork and something any intelligent follower of pop young or old would enjoy. The packaging is also worth mentioning due to the particularly striking cover art and further pictures within that simply make this a nice little item to own.
on 11 January 2009
The album is brilliant, there is no denying that. I have to say though that I agree that I actually preffered "I am a bird now" as well although this is a different style and more subtle. The opening track "Her Eyes" is probably my favourite along with "Another World" which is truly haunting and is up there on the same rank as "Hope theres someone". I can't stop listening to "Kiss My name" as well.
The only reason I only gave it a 4 is because there are actually 3 tracks which don't really do anything for me at all - Aeon, Dust and Water and One Dove.I thought they would grow on me but they just haven't and I think I may be skipping them a lot on future listens.
The strength of the other 7 tracks merits the album a 4 star though.
Add: Wow, after a few more listens it has just dawned on me how good "Her Eyes Underneath The Ground" actually is, probably one of my fave AATJ songs of all the catalogue.
on 28 March 2009
well i wont go over old ground, and repeat what the other reviewers say, but this has surely got to be one of the best albums that will appear in 2009, even so early on in the first quarter
a style all of his own with amazing melodies and layered vocals sway to the sound of emotion and engaging theatrical dramaticism with great authenticity, this album has been played for near on two months now, and i listen to it daily which is unsual for me to hold an album for so long in heavy rotation
listening to this album on a rega jupiter transport connected through a dac1 pre out to akg k1000 ear speakers is pure bliss and places you in and amongst antony and the johnsons themselves as they tell their lyrical tales
a front row ticket i indeed have and this is one performance where every track delivers without exception, no one track wonders here, the album is solid as a rock throughout!
go and buy it!