Antony and the Johnsons
I Am a Bird Now
First Appeared in The Music Box, November 2005, Volume 12, #11
Written by T.J. Simon
Antony Hegarty is a British-born, New York City-dweller whose Mercury Prize-winning cabaret music has transformed him into an iconic figure within the gay community. His singing voice is a falsetto vibrato that, in his best moments, evokes a soulful femininity and, at his worst, recalls Tiny Tim tiptoeing through the tulips. On his second full-length effort I Am a Bird Now, the drag queen maestro delivers 10 mournful piano ballads in a little over 35 minutes with several bright points along the way.
Hegarty tours and records under the moniker Antony and the Johnsons, but his backing band provides such a muted collection of strings, horns, and gentle drumming that it is often imperceptible in the mix. This places Hegartyís voice and piano in the spotlight, except for when he calls upon some high profile friends for vocal assistance. Rufus Wainwright carries lead vocals on one of the discís stronger numbers What Can I Do?, and You Are My Sister is an enjoyable, if unsurprising, duet with Boy George. Indie rock oddball Devendra Banhart contributes vocals to the unremarkable Spiralling, while Fistful of Love, the albumís strongest track, opens with a spoken word piece from Lou Reed before it kicks into gear with an explosion of old-school soul horns that, combined with Hegartyís voice, sends the song into the stratosphere.
The music of Antony and the Johnsons is clearly not for everyone. Listeners who are the least bit unnerved by flamboyant gayness probably wonít find much to enjoy on I Am a Bird Now, and even those who are cool with the scene will likely find that a little of Hegartyís high-flying vocals goes a long way. However, if approached with an open mind, the music of Antony and the Johnsons can be quite pleasing to the ears, and I Am a Bird Now is generally worthy of the considerable praise that it has received. Ĺ
I Am a Bird Now is available from Barnes & Noble.
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1 Star: Pitiful
2 Stars: Listenable
3 Stars: Respectable
4 Stars: Excellent
5 Stars: Can't Live Without It!!
Copyright © 2005 The Music Box