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Antony and The Johnsons
Swanlights - Secretly Canadian
FILTER Grade: 84%

By Laura Studarus on September 1, 2010

 

Antony and The Johnsons

Antony Hegarty is an odd duck. His curious appearance, hulking and androgynous, gives way to even more curious music—darkly beautiful orchestral pieces suspended somewhere between the theatre and the cathedral. Trapped in a perpetual state of emotional vulnerability, his obsession with the environment in 2009’s The Crying Light has transitioned into Swanlight’s explorations of life and death. Divisive warble restrained, the tender compositions take center-stage, making for 11 satisfying tracks. Swanlights’ emotive explorations unfold slowly, transitioning from the tension-building crawl of opening track “Everything is New” to the stripped down guitar-and-voice of “The Great White Ocean.” Generally a morose affair (the haunting echoes of the titular track aren’t so much angelic birds as ghostly specters), the horn-driven single, “Thank You for Your Love,” comes as a welcome jolt similar to Another World EP track “Shake That Devil.” Stunning, yes, but Swanlights’ greatest moment of transcendence comes via Björk, who joins Hegarty for Icelandic-language duet “Flétta.” Backed only by a piano and the strength of their convections, the ethereal ballad is a fitting follow-up to similar collaborations on Björk’s 2007 album, Volta. A remarkable work overall, Swanlights proves—yet again—that this odd duck has always known true beauty.

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