Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.
Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

Antony & The Johnsons: The Crying Light

Nothing about Antony's voice sounds appealing in description. It's highly mannered, decorous, tremulous, cold, withholding, adenoidal, mercurial—something alien choked from the throats of Nina Simone and Scott Walker with a pair of frilly gloves found in the back of a cabaret dressing room. But that same voice is what makes Antony dramatic—and, on The Crying Light, absolutely devastating.


Part of his power owes to the ways his manneredness can be misconstrued, which seem very much on his radar: Whenever it becomes most tempting to write off one of his trills or throaty quivers as an affectation, Antony leans into a straightforward phrasing that proves deftly—and by all appearances knowingly—timed to disarm. Likewise, when creeping toward the most maudlin extremes of his always-maudlin songs, Antony cranks the excess of his coo to expose all the romanticism and theatricality at play in his enterprise. And so it goes on The Crying Light, a startlingly powerful album meted out with supreme control.

Antony certainly knows what he's doing in a sly song like "Epilepsy Is Dancing," which takes a jaunty, almost madrigal-like detour after the mournful "Her Eyes Are Underneath The Ground" opens the album with a cry for the ocean to swallow him now, so as to ease the pain of sensitivity. Other highlights, like the title track and "Another World" (among others accented greatly with eerie arrangements by Nico Muhly), share the theme of staring down the prospects of environmental oblivion. In "Another World," over sparse piano and traces of atmospheric feedback, Antony sings about birds, trees, bees, the sun, the wind, the snow. They're all simple things he'll miss when he's gone—and all things made more haunted and poignant by the simple act of Antony singing about them.

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