Antony and the Johnsons
The Crying Light


3.5
great

Review

by Nick Butler EMERITUS
January 14th, 2009 | 32 replies | 11,609 views


Release Date: 2009 | Tracklist

Review Summary: This time around, he deserves to be winning awards.

To begin with, I refer you to This is Your Brain on Music, the excellent book by Daniel J. Levitin. In the introduction of this book, Levitin briefly considers the nature of memorable music, and why certain music is remembered years after the fact, how music can become more famous with time, and how some musicians who were originally considered important artists can either be forgotten or relegated to secondary importance. His given examples of the latter point included Cheap Trick, Adam & The Ants, Paul Stookey, and Mary Ford; and in 2008, it might have been tempting to add the name of Antony Hegarty to that list. In 2005, he was seemingly everywhere, being hyped by everyone, appearing in every year-end list - and then nothing. Compared to the Mercury Prize winners either side of him (Klaxons, Arctic Monkeys, Franz Ferdinand, and Dizzee Rascal), his music hasn't remained in the public eye in anywhere near the same way, nor has it competed with any of the other acclaimed albums from the same year (Silent Alarm, Picaresque, LCD Soundsystem, Arular, even Illinois) in that regard.

A lot of that can be attributed to his insular, arty songwriting and his love-it-or-hate-it voice, but it can't be ignored that the drop-off in his active fanbase compared to the acts named above is largely because, in retrospect, I Am A Bird Now just isn't that good an album. Repeated listens revealed it to be patchy, with its subject matter too repetitive and its guest performances feeling like token gestures. Perhaps, then, the reason Antony's taken four years to make a follow-up is that he knew it had to be a serious improvement, lest his award-winning second album become the next Christopher Cross.

And an improvement it is. The Crying Light may take a while to sink in with most listeners (it certainly took at least three for me to realize its quality), but it's a confident step forward and outwards from his first two albums, in a good old-fashioned 'difficult third album' kind of way. The changes are at once both obvious and subtle, leaping from the page at first but taking their time to have their full effect. His songcraft, for one, has improved exponentially - where I Am A Bird Now too often buried itself into an auto-piloted niche, Antony has worked hard here to bring in different sounds and textures without degrading the appeal he always had. The arrangement of "Aeon" seems simple at first, based around an arpeggiated guitar figure as basic as they come, but repeated listens reveal the subtly increasing distortion, the strings swirling around it, and the way Antony's voice sounds barely restrained at some points and almost Presley-esque at others. Even the song's pay-off lyric - 'take the power back' - works on the same principle, by first reminding the listener of Rage Against The Machine and then revealing itself to be tied in to an ambiguous lyric that is possibly about an abusive relationship, and that hints at birth trauma. Then there's the delicate, antiquated "Kiss My Name", the sprightly rhythms of which displays Rufus Wainwright's influence without actually sounding much like him, and the sweeping movie score strings found on "Everglade". Even the album's most immediate song, and the one that harks back to his previous albums the most, shows off this new focus - "Her Eyes Are Underneath The Ground", an opener every bit as bewitching as "Hope There's Someone", its flute arrangement moving it softly into oddly comforting territory before a heavy, bassy string finale closes it out.

If you were one of the many that loved I Am A Bird Now when it was released, then you'll undoubtedly enjoy this just as much. All the basics of the Antony and the Johnsons sound - the soulful voice, the producer's habit of multi-tracking that voice more often than not, the slightly naive piano playing, the homely intimacy - remain, yet this time they've been reworked into something more built to last. With this lush, almost Mark Hollis-esque album, Antony is finally worthy of every platitude that's been thrown in his direction.



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user ratings (115)
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Comments:Add a Comment 
gaslightanthem
January 14th 2009



5209 Comments


this is some good written work right here

Iai
Emeritus
January 15th 2009



3553 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

I guess everybody's rush to comment on this proves the point I make in the opening two paragraphs.

STOP SHOUTING!
January 15th 2009



631 Comments


Sounds interesting, will have to check this out.
As you say, the previous album had some astounding songs, (Hope there's someone, Fistful of love, Spiralling) but perhaps too much filler only held together by his voice.
Have you heard his 1st album? It didn't grab me, but I probably didn't give it enough of a chance.

Iai
Emeritus
January 15th 2009



3553 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

I wasn't a fan.

DaveyBoy
Staff Reviewer
January 15th 2009



20855 Comments


I really liked this review Nick, especially the first paragraph. Although it could read better if you split the 3rd paragraph in half. I know, that's nit-picking. Good stuff man.

Anthracks
January 15th 2009



3668 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

I LOVE ANTONYS VOICE and i really want this

good review

AtavanHalen
January 16th 2009



17927 Comments


Can't wait to hear this. Lovely review.

gaslightanthem
January 16th 2009



5209 Comments


lovely? lovely?

Mendigo
January 16th 2009



2299 Comments

Album Rating: 1.0

nice album

Minus The Flair
Emeritus
January 16th 2009



862 Comments


Awesome book. I didn't really like I Am A Bird Now, pretty much for exactly the same reasons, but I might give this a shot.

tarethere
January 17th 2009



184 Comments


great reference with your brain on music. of the maybe thirty books ive read in my life, ironically, thats one of em.
in other news, her eyes are underground still shakes me up

Dragon_Prince
January 19th 2009



272 Comments


Aeon really reminde me of an other song, I don't know which one.

DFelon204409
Emeritus
January 19th 2009



3995 Comments


Just listened to "Epilepsy Is Dancing." The first half is just unbelievably boring and the second half is pretty awesome. His voice and delivery would take some getting used to. Don't like it as of now and don't think I will.

tarethere
January 19th 2009



184 Comments


why is the first half unbelievably boring and whys the second half pretty awesome?

Iai
Emeritus
January 21st 2009



3553 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Aeon reminded me of Everybody Hurts when I first heard it.

Epilepsy is Dancing is probably my least favourite on the album.

Lucid
Contributing Reviewer
January 24th 2009



7018 Comments


I've been listening to "I Am A Bird Now" for around a week and its pretty good. Downloaded this and will be listening to it soon. This Message Edited On 01.24.09

Digging: Braid - No Coast

IsItLuck?
Emeritus
January 25th 2009



4926 Comments


I saw a video for one of the songs on this album, and it's some interesting stuff, I don't know if I could get down to it though

Digging: Joyce Manor - Never Hungover Again

ironzeppelin789
January 25th 2009



133 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

TBH i didn't like it a lot but i've only listened to it once.

PaleCompanion
January 26th 2009



154 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

I like it a lot, especially at night, just before going to bed.

SeaAnemone
January 27th 2009



19681 Comments


I was recommended this band once, but I never quite had the initiative to pursue it... maybe this review will convince me.

Digging: Towers - Bel Air Highrise Plantation



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