Ten years ago today Antony And The Johnsons released the highly anticipated successor to their second album. A beautiful album, minimal, intense, moving and different.
The most important person in Antony And The Johnsons is Antony, short for Antony Hegarty. A remarkable figure with an equally remarkable love or hate voice.
Antony was born in England in 1971 as the son of an IBM employee. Because of his job, his father moved around a lot. Because of this Antony lived in Amsterdam at the end of the 1970’s and in California as a teen. As a child he was different, which he and he felt and experienced as such. During the 1980’s he discovers he is not alone, through listening to music by Culture Club and Marc Almond (amongst others). He recognized himself in them.
In 1990 Antony starts with his theater studies in Manhattan, New York. There he forms the theater transvestite-revue Blacklips. But he has an undeniable love and talent for music. Midway through the 1990’s he is granted a scholarship for an upcoming production and decides to listen to his heart. The money isn’t used for a new theatrical production, but it is all spent on his debut album Antony And The Johnsons, which is released in 1998.
Upon hearing the music by Antony And The Johnsons, Lou Reed is very much in awe. They end up working together, which leads to a deal with Secretly Canadian. The second album, 2005’s I Am A Bird Now, results in an even higher profile. It’s a beautiful album, giving the right attention to Antony’s voice. The album has a lot of guest appearances, including Lou Reed, Boy George, Rufus Wainwright and Devendra Banhart. The album even wins a prestigious British music award: the Mercury Prize.
N.B.: Antony chose the addition of ‘And The Johnsons’ as a tribute to Marsha P. Johnson, an advocate for gay rights in the USA and co-founder of the gay and transvestite organization S.T.A.R. (Street Transvestite Action Revolutionaries).
The Crying Light
On January 19th, 2009, the third Antony And The Johnsons album is released: The Crying Light.
It is an impressive album. After the release of predecessor I Am A Bird Now anticipation was very high for The Crying Light. The danger of disappointment laid just around the corner, but that wasn’t the case, not by a long shot. The Crying Light is intimate, melancholy, honest, simple, subtle, minimalist and rich and it’s the best that has been released under the moniker Antony And The Johnsons.
Antony himself stated the album’s theme was “about landscape and the future”.
The album is dedicated to the Japanese butoh-dancer Kazuo Ohno. The photo on the cover depicts Ohno. Antony: “Ever since my teens, he has been my artistic father”.
All songs written by Antony Hegarty, unless stated otherwise.
- Her Eyes Are Underneath the Ground (Antony Hegarty, Nick Hegarty)
- Epilepsy Is Dancing
- One Dove (Antony Hegarty, Barry Reynolds)
- Kiss My Name
- The Crying Light
- Another World
- Daylight and the Sun
- Dust and Water
Preceding the album, the EP Another World is released. In 2009 two songs are released as a single: Epilepsy Is Dancing and Aeon. The latter contains a stunning cover of the Beyoncé song Crazy In Love, which bears no resemblance at all to the original and shines a brand new light on the song.
Prior to the album’s release, the The Crying Light tour commences in 2008. In 2009 the tour continues. A lot of shows are performed with philharmonic orchestras, as is the case in the Amsterdam venue Carré. That show is televised on Dutch television. A beautiful and impressive concert, wherein Antony reduces his audience to tears.
After The Crying Light
In 2010 the next album Swanlights is released, followed by live album Cut The World in 2012. Antony gets increasingly explicit in his battle against pollution, supporting feminism and ecology. The transgender ‘issue’ is a regular topic. In November 2014 Antony states:
“My closest friends and family use feminine pronouns for me. I have not mandated the press do one thing or another… In my personal life I prefer ‘she’. I think words are important. To call a person by their chosen gender is to honor their spirit, their life and contribution. ‘He’ is an invisible pronoun for me, it negates me.”
In 2015 Antony announced she will be called Anohni from then on. The first album released using her new name is 2016’s Hopelessness, one year later followed by an EP called Paradise.
What do you think? Is Antony And The Johnsons’ The Crying Light a good album or not? Let me know!
This story contains an accompanying video. Click on the following link to see it: Video: Antony And The Johnsons – The Crying Light. The A Pop Life playlist on Spotify has been updated as well.
Antony Live 2009 image: independent.co.uk
Antony Mercury Prize 2005 image: theguardian.com
Antony And The Johnsons – The Crying Light image: genius.com
Antony And The Johnsons – Aeon / Crazy In Love – single image: 45cat.com