Monday, February 23
OK, So Maybe This Is a Picture of a Dude, but Still, Freaky.
Artist: Antony and the Johnsons
Album: The Crying Light
Comments: Music as art is sometimes cumbersome to listen to. Luckily, one of the years first truly awesome musical releases blends the line of artistic expression and beautifully crafted songs into a listening experience of a lifetime. Antony and the Johnsons latest album, The Crying Light, takes it's inspiration and amplifies the beauty into some incredibly sublime music. Antony Hegarty's muse is not another musical act, but a 102 year old Japanese Bhuto dancer, Kazuo Ohno (who graces the cover of the album.) Hegarty was so moved by the lyrical dance of this frail but incredibly passionate dancer , that the album exudes an air of gentle beauty that seems at any moment could break. The album is simple, but it dazzles from start to finish. The music floats above the air and Hagerty's voice takes front and center stage and shoots the music to the limits of the sky.
The album opens with "Her Eyes Are Underneath the Ground" which starts immediately with a trembling Hegarty delivering the lyrics at such a beautiful, melancholy timber that it's almost impossible to not be moved by the song's first few seconds. The arrangements are simple and not overpowering, but add another element of beauty to an already gorgeous melody. Hegarty's voice is reminiscent of Nina Simone and Tim Buckley giving it a very ethereal feel. It adds so much to the songs. "Epilepsy is Dancing" takes a physical condition that is restrictive and makes it into a beautiful art form. Strange, yet it is a beautiful image to say that a physical ailment could actually be a wondrous piece of art. The ideas of death, physical restriction and art are definitely a theme on this album.
Running just a little over a half hour, the album seems like a sweeping epic even though it's over quickly. All the praise goes to the centerpiece of Antony Hegarty's voice. The most up-tempo and musically flowering song, "Kiss My Name", is really the only time that the music stands up to the power of the vocal performance. It's a fast waltz of sorts with very snappy drums and elegant flute and string arrangements that flutter about your ear drums. Other than that, it's all Hegarty's beautiful bravado. Luckily it's not just baseless vocal show boating. The lyrical content is poetic and poignant. During the title track, Hegarty delivers one of the most romantic lines I have ever heard in: "I was born to adore you/As a baby in the blind/I was born to represent you/To carry your head into the sun/To carve your face into the back of the sun." Something about this line screams dedication and sheer love for someone and Hegarty's delivery here shows that passion and amplifies it by 100. "One Dove" also has this element of poetic beauty that gains value with its master's voice. It trembles along as Hegarty begs for "mercy" from the tracks guiding force. It's genuine.
One thing for sure is that Antony is more important then the Johnsons here, but this is not to say that the music isn't fit for the style and mood of the album. It's subtle and quiet and somber and is the perfect balance to his voice. It's like Meg White of the White Stripes. It's not that shes a bad drummer (Come on dude, she totally is - Ed.), but the bravado and flashy eccentricity of Jack White's guitar and vocals needs something simple but a good backbone. The Crying Light is a triumphant record. It's some of the most beautifully poetic music you will ever hear and it does not get tired or old. The unique voice of Antony Hegarty is filled with utter desperation and melancholy, but instead of it being overbearing or cumbersome, it's somber and gentle and inviting. Rather than alienate the listener with something so artistic, The Crying Light invites you to share with the emotions and the grandiose-yet-simple structures of the songs is what makes this record excellent. It will make you weep at times and it will fill you with a romanticism that music rarely does.
- By Paul Tsikitas
Rating: 9 out of 10
Key Tracks: Epilepsy is Dancing, One Dove, Kiss My Name, The Crying Light
Buy, Skip, Steal: Buy