The Crying Light

Antony And The Johnsons

Secretly Canadian, 2009

REVIEW BY: Kenny S. McGuane


Already lauded as one of the year’s best releases -- premature as those claims might be -- the newest album from New York-based Antony & The Johnsons, The Crying Light, will be difficult to top in terms of sincerity, raw emotion, and sparseness of production. It comes at a perfect time for ringleader Antony Hegarty, too, who lent his fascinating and frighteningly unique vocals to the best album of 2008: Hercules & Love Affair’s self-titled disco-bash debut.

Turns out our beloved Hegarty can do both self-reflective, piano-driven, mope-pop and ball-busting, synth-driven disco with equal authenticity and class. my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

Even if listeners find more of the same on The Crying Light, more of the same for an Antony & The Johnsons record is a welcomed repetition. But that’s oversimplifying, indeed. While The Crying Light picks up musically where 2005’s highly acclaimed I’m A Bird Now left off, the beauty and artistic vision of Antony & The Johnsons is more honed here, more refined, as if that were even possible. The Crying Light’s arrangements are fantastically controlled and sophisticated, all driven by Hegarty’s immensely and gorgeously restrained piano playing. Then there are the strings, which are laid down with the utmost caution and sensibility. When those features are combined with Hegarty’s signature, sexually ambiguous, acquired-taste vocal performances, the end result is a heartbreakingly emotional and captivating experience.  

Per standard protocol for Antony & The Johnsons, The Crying Light is deeply personal. Whether or not Hegarty is able to convert those who are incapable of getting past his singing remains to be seen, but it would be hard to imagine anyone taking a listen and then accusing the singer and company of misrepresenting themselves or the thoughtful subject matter. Earnestness is what sells The Crying Light, just as it did the group’s first two albums. Not one track here stands out among the others; they’re all equally powerful and moving. Album opener “Her Eyes Are Underneath The Ground” is paired with the slightly upbeat “Epilepsy Is Dancing” and in just under seven minutes Antony & The Johnsons have mostly satisfied -- and for some, totally exceeded -- any and all expectations put in place by I’m A Bird Now.

The Crying Light is drowned in provocative poetry and soul-bearing performance and it’s a must-hear for anybody that cares about contemporary music. Desperation and identity crisis has never sounded this good.

Rating: B+

User Rating: Not Yet Rated



© 2009 Kenny S. McGuane and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Secretly Canadian, and is used for informational purposes only.