Antony and the Johnsons return in 2005 with I Am A Bird Now
, the follow up to their self-titled debut, released in 2000. Preceeded by a number of EPs, I Am A Bird Now
shows a different approach to the band's first record.
Antony and the Johnsons
Antony - Vocals, Piano, Organ
Julia Kent - Cello
Todd Cohen - Drums
Jeff Langston - Bass
Joan Wassen - Viola
Maxim Moston - Violin
From the opening track of I Am A Bird Now
, it's obvious that it is a much more quiet and intimate record than the band's self titled album. I Am A Bird Now
is essentially an album of quiet, piano based ballads that feature Antony's voice in a very prominent way. Featuring a number a guests, most of them being friends of Antony, the record brings together a "who's who" of Alternative music. Devendra Banhart, Rufus Wainwright and Boy George all make appearances, while Lou Reed's spiraling guitar and spoken word contribution to "Fistful of Love" is a true highlight. Central to I Am A Bird Now
is Antony's ambiguous sexuality. Lyrically, the album focuses on struggle through relationships and indentity issues. "For Today I Am A Boy" is an obvious struggle with identity, while "Hope There's Someone" is a plea for human companionship. Like Devendra Banhart (one of Antony's friends), Antony's strongest asset is by far his songwriting. Musically, the arrangements are nothing short of perfect, while lyrically, I Am A Bird Now
is incredibly personal.
"Hope There's Someone" opens the album and sets the tone for the rest of the record. Just seconds in, the track showcases Antony's incredible vocal technique. His voice is one of the most transparent, beautiful and unique voices in modern music. The musical arrangements that dominate I Am A Bird Now
are beautiful, heartbreaking and often complex. Using a variety of instruments, the instrumentation often shines on it's own, despite the fact that it generally only really is used to augment Antony's voice and piano. Despite the wide range of instruments on offer, I Am A Bird Now
is primarily a sparse and quiet record. Album highlight and centrepiece "Fistful of Love" features the most dominating musical performance, as well as building from Lou Reed's excellent guitar work. Like most of the songs on the album, "Fistful of Love" features depressing lyrics and subject matter, while being ultimately uplifting and hopeful. In fact, just about every song on I Am A Bird
, lyrically and musically, is like this. "For Today I Am A Boy", for example, deals with wanting to be someone else. Lyrically, the song is depressing, as is the musical arrangement, but injected with a great deal of hope. "You Are My Sister" is simply one of the most beautiful songs ever written.
I Am A Bird Now
is one of the most beautiful, personal and heartbreaking records of 2005. With his operatic voice, deeply emotional lyrics and hard to decipher character, Antony is one of the most unique characters to hit the music scene in quite a while. Undoubtedly one of the best albums of the year.
Beautiful singing and lyrics
Some tracks are over shadowed by others
Hope There's Someone
You Are My Sister
Fistful of Love
FINAL RATING: 4.5/5