Antony and the Johnsons: Swanlights (Secretly Canadian) | Under the Radar Magazine Under the Radar | Music Blog for the Indie Music Magazine
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Antony and the Johnsons

Swanlights

Secretly Canadian

Oct 11, 2010 Antony and the Johnsons Bookmark and Share


While the songs of Swanlights play like a logical extension of the progression from the last two albums by Antony and the Johnsons, they also feel like a possible conclusion, and maybe even a necessary one.

Antony Hegarty’s vocal style is a singular gift that thrills fans but may require further consideration for those unaccustomed to his dramatic quaver, an instrument that calls to mind Bryan Ferry flying freely à la Jeff Buckley or Björk (who guests on this album). Swanlights lays out a landscape with plenty of room for Antony to move, providing the album with the basis of its varying strengths.

Their last album, 2009’s The Crying Light, was at times witheringly emotional, with songs that underscored how brightly Antony’s vocals can burn within the context of a tighter construct. Understandably, the singer might have felt the need to push beyond that album’s somber moments, and here a sense of freedom is palpable.

The opening track, “Everything Is New,” sets the scene with a subtle, gradual building of intensity, where intertwining piano, guitar, and light percussion lead Antony to a point where he abandons lyrics to soar vocally around the players. The group employs a lighter, more pop-oriented approach with “I’m In Love,” where a giddy Antony scats along at times like Van Morrison in his fevered earlier days.

It’s vital for artists to develop their craft in ways that push against preconceptions, though some of the most compelling moments of Swanlights come when Antony and the musicians dim the lights for a more intimate approach, as with the tension built in the title track between the vocals and a subdued, fuzzed-guitar/bass accompaniment.

On the closing “Christina’s Farm,” a setting of piano and occasional, light strings grows to a swell, during which Antony seems to be leaning closer to his listener to offer what feels like a folk song, a plea, a gift. Not necessarily a case of less being more, the song highlights how compelling Antony’s voice can be when the listener feels directly involved. (www.antonyandthejohnsons.com)

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