Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Self-Destructive Zones: Antony & The Johnsons, The Crying Light

Antony & The Johnsons released my very favorite album of 2005. In a rather strong year for recorded music, it's hard to pinpoint exactly why that particular album spoke to me so wonderfully. Perhaps it had something to do with Hegarty's utterly damaged vibrato relaying those conceptual nightmares of heartbreak and stinging redemption. Or perhaps it was the accompanying sonic subtleties, more fleshed out than on previous releases, but also completely eager to take a backseat to the star of the show. Or maybe it was just the odd fucking beauty of it all. Whatever it was, it worked completely. To this day I consider I Am a Bird Now a unapologetic masterpiece. Now with The Crying Light, Antony & The Johnsons have finally returned to me with a slightly more nuanced point of view, and a hearty sampling of activist posturing. And it is pretty damned effective, for the most part. The emotive grandness is in all the right places--just where we left them. The poetry masquerading as melodrama masquerading as sweet sorrow is as perfectly off-center as it ever has been. The arrangements follow I Am a Bird Now's slight nature, but aren't shy about coming just "this" close to epic showmanship. Ultimately, there is a pointed failing in that the album is a bit too contained by its central conceit. There is a sense of freedom lacking which wasn't the case on Antony's previous work, and it is slightly distracting here. Still lovely in all of the saddest ways, though, The Crying Light is beautifully delivered, and will likely become one of the more memorable releases of the year.