Antony & The Johnsons album an acquired taste

Molly Schreiber

Even for a seasoned artist, the greatest challenge of creation is communicating the gravity of an underlying purpose and an undisclosed relevance within the art.

The successful communication of more than one purpose is an exciting rarity in artistic composition.

In the third studio album from Antony & The Johnsons, “The Crying Light,” this scarce musical triumph is arguably achieved.

The lead singer of the band, Antony Hegarty, employs his pipes in a heart-wrenchingly honest collection, addressing themes of universal importance.

In his signature avant-garde approach, Hegarty’s pleading voice examines conflicts like loss and love, youth and senility and, ultimately, life and death.

In a style reminiscent of the previous work of the band, “The Crying Light” layers the compositions with subdued instrumentation and lyrical depth, creating a dense, yet simplistic and meaningful album.

When dealing with a band like Antony & The Johnsons, an open-minded focus is a necessity. Refusing to simplify their work for the sake of accessibility, the members of Antony & The Johnsons use their art to reflect the context within which it was made.

Like any piece of serious art, each track requires reflection and interpretation as well as an appreciation for the sacrificial vulnerability of the artists.

In startlingly personal tracks like “Aeon” and “Her Eyes Are Underneath the Ground,” the lyrical content is powerful and Hegarty’s pitch flawless.

Without reticence or nerves, Hegarty allows his range to bounce back and forth between its boundaries, illustrating his emotional investment in the lyrics about his family as well as the instrumentation that accompanies it.

In both tracks, it is as though he is inviting the listener to watch as he paints the pictures of his memories with each stroke of the piano keys.

In a similarly intimate track, “Another World,” the beautiful, albeit emotional, ballad conveys a message that is evocative of the current national sentiment.

Again, touching universal themes, Hegarty sings of an emotional dilemma: the urge to escape from a crumbling, war-torn world and the desire to remain a part of the natural beauty of a world without destruction.

The subject matter, although fragile, is both powerful and undeniably relevant to a modern nation plagued by disunity and violence.

It is Hegarty’s ability to reveal his physical and emotional connection to these ideals that make this album unique and artistically important.

In addition to these deeply thought-provoking compositions, Antony & The Johnsons seamlessly integrate songs with a little less weight.

In the third track, “Epilepsy Is Dancing,” the listener is reminded of Hegarty’s fascination with oddity. Almost reminiscent of a highly subdued David Bowie, Hegarty proclaims, “I cry glitter” in the midst of the more upbeat spinal support of piano and guitar.

In the fourth track, “One Dove,” Hegarty does not depart from the fluid simplicity of the album, but delicately builds into an irrefutably jazzy track, illustrating both range and refinement.

This ability to build up and break down with purified orchestration adds diversity and interest to an expertly crafted album.

The work of Antony & The Johnsons is an acquired taste.

For those readers without previous exposure to this unconventional band, prepare yourself for true innovation and, at times, uncomfortable lyrical and compositional experimentation.

Consider the authors of literary classics or the moguls of the canvas. While their work may require time, consideration and adjustment, the result is ultimately worth the effort.

This is precisely the case for the work of Antony & The Johnsons.

The album can, at first glance, seem slow and the instrumentation undiversified, but the content has been carefully built up and chiseled down.

From the lyrics to the orchestration, Antony & The Johnsons have gained something potent and significant in “The Crying Light”; an achievement to consider as they embark upon the music of a new year.