Tuesday, October 21, 2008

another world by antony & and the johnsons

Someone recently told me that I was his "touchstone of normalcy." This is...terrifying, and after much consternation I have reluctantly concluded that I'm simply not capable of the mental gymnastics needed to unpack this statement. Of course, it's all relative, right? While I'm an oddball for all the usual reasons anyone who voluntarily chooses to blog can be called weird, Antony Hegarty, leader of Antony & The Johnsons, is busy creating his own standard of normalcy. Or weirdness. After two full-lengths and a handful of EPs, it's clear that he really doesn't care what you think.

After adding texture to Björk's occasionally interesting Volta and being the sole redeeming feature of Hercules & Love Affair's tragically bland debut outing, it's nice to hear Antony back on his own turf with Another World (available now). I'll admit it; I just don't get his guest spots. Early exposure to him on Rufus Wainwright's epic Want 2 almost made me write off Antony's œuvre in its entirety. Had it not been (once again) for KCRW, I wouldn't be writing this right now. I'd be, you know, sleeping or doing something normal.

Another World's brevity may just be a stop gap (five songs, nineteen minutes, thirty-one seconds) before January's Crying Light, but if you've gotta have a musical refilling station, what better place to take a pause than one crammed with Antony's distinct wail and swelling orchestration? It sure beats the terrible smelling I-5 rest stops my parents would always drag us to when the mercury was twenty degrees above or below the comfort zone.

Antony's musical choices are, for the most part, as dependable as my parent's vacation choices. Another World isn't going to silence stylistic naysayers. He still writes beautiful, pain-ridden piano music; it's clear his blue period extends far into the horizon. However, there are slight shifts in the stylistic winds. This time Antony's perennial blues come with...the blues. "Shake the Devil" highlights a more vocally aggressive Antony; it's a song that could serve as a dramatic postscript to I Am A Bird Now's "Fist Full of Love." The driving drums, the slinky saxophone, the call-and-response chorus of that dog had its way with me/shake that dog out of that tree...could it all be a sign Antony might be planning to cut loose come his next full-length? Hard to tell. After the one conspicuously aggressive number, Antony retreats to the solidarity of his piano, horns pushed to arms length, on the haunting album closer "Hope Mountain"...the place where people come to cry. Baby steps toward change? Who knows? One thing's for sure, though: refusal to embrace normalcy has never sounded so good.

mp3: "You Are My Sister Now" by Antony and The Johnsons (from I Am A Bird Now)


Flockflockflock EVERYDAY said...

agreed :)

heidi_brynn said...

I have often wondered where Antony had gone to... I feel better that it appears that he has returned to the land of the living.

The Effete Bomb said...

We have a remix of Another World up on our MySpace page. Hope you like it.