ANTONY AND THE JOHNSONS – Swanlights
Buy’ employs a traditional bent while Hegarty implores ‘his darling, his father’ to accompany him as he seeks familial connection. The piano and strings are used to great effect on the ethereal ‘Ghost’ which continues the theme of renewal, ‘Snake!, shed your skin and go away’. ‘I’m In Love’ is a mixture of restrained tribal rhythms, synth loops and pastoral woodwind that finds Antony in a happy place, albeit in his slumber ‘In all my dreams they all came true, that day I lay my head on you’.
‘The Spirit Was Gone’ sees Hegarty lamenting the loss and passing of said someone’s inner beauty and strength as his piano holds the same note until its last strike. First single, ‘Thank You For Your Love’ begins familiarly enough before transforming itself half way through into possibly the rockiest loudest thing the band has ever put to record. Bjork’s more than significant contribution on the spartan ‘Fletta’ adds a welcome dimesion to Swanlights, a contribution that sees her singing in her native tongue as Antony embellishes her with just the right tonations.
‘Salt Silver Oxygen’ a collaboration with Nico, sees musically, the pastoral return but it’s accompanied lyrically with the abstract themes of religion and death. The foreboding horns indicate all is not well here but you get the sense Hegarty is more bulletproof now against the inevitable. ‘dancing with his casket, Christ becomes wife, the easy dust is dancing too, it splits the waterside in two, elect the salt mother, for she is a selective Christ’ The theme of renewal returns somewhat self-conciously on the closer, the lengthy, ‘Christina’s Farm’… ‘I awoke to find a whiteness inside, everything did shine, slyly, from each body, halos from within, diamonds the year in…my face and your face tenderly renewed’. The perfect bookend.
Swanlights has reinforced and solidified Hegarty and company’s undoubted reputations. While there is always a danger that with a voice like Hegarty’s, there may be a tendency about to be a little underwhelmed by his recordings by now. However, his ability to employ the best elements of past releases and at the same time continue to grow and offer more than subtle difference suggests there will always be enough that is new to keep his fans interested and perhaps enough to convert others, even the neasayers to a very unique, worthy and important artist.
James Stocker, November 4, 2010.