Antony aches for everything, so much so it’s difficult to keep up with; his voices just drips with it as if he’s permanently on the edge of tears. He’s captured that fleeting moment when a child falls over and its face turns from confusion to horror: just before the pain takes hold, and turned it into a voice.
He quivered his way through a brutally honest and yet beautifully poignant battle with gender stereotyping and how he could show his true self on 2005’s I Am A Bird Now – and as if as recognition of his personal victory, we gave him a Mercury. With that safely stowed on his mantle he’s turned his righteous crusade out onto the world around him – first on last year’s simmering Another World EP and now on this, his third album, The Crying Light.
He chose to tackle himself on his own, but for the world he has brought in Philip Glass protégé and sometime Bjork collaborator Nico Muhly on arrangement duty. Muhly helps give Antony’s previously stark vox and piano a new, depth swooping from the rich, grandiosity of Kiss My Name to the brittle, bleakness of Dust And Water. The effect of Muhly’s influence is similar to that of Van Dyke Parks on Joanna Newsom’s most recent record Ys – as Joanna proved she isn’t just a kooky girl with a harp, so Antony now proves he isn’t just a confused ‘man’ with a piano.
The Crying Light is racked with the common guilt for us ruining the world around us. Opener Her Eyes Are Underneath The Ground serves as a confession to mother nature for stealing a flower from her garden when he was a kid. And later he cries for a new day on Daylight And The Sun, as if we will never see another dawn if we continue as we are. Perhaps we should listen to him, we’re bad people after all. Ahem.
This mournful misery is not alone though: there is hope and even a touch of optimism. Stand out track Aeon holds the album’s most powerful and heart-rending moment when Antony’s usual falsetto gives way to an almost-manly bellow: “Without him I wouldn’t exist, hold the man that I love so much.” Then on One Dove there is a hint of forgiveness in the smooth saxophone as the starlight brings mercy.
The Crying Light is a truly beautiful record. It’s initial impact is not like that of his previous two albums, but this allows his genuine talent to begin to blossom. There is more to come from Antony.