Antony Hegarty undoubtedly has one of the most extraordinary voices of any singer of his generation; and he has the ability to write songs that do that voice justice — and one song in particular, the magnificent ‘Hope There’s Someone’. Hegarty’s problem in the past has been consistency: ‘Hope There’s Someone’ overshadowed everything else on the second Antony and the Johnsons album, 2005’s I am a Bird Now, with only a couple of songs towards the end approaching it.
Now, four years later, comes The Crying Light. I don’t think any of its ten songs quite matches ‘Hope There’s Someone’ — but I do think the result is a better, more satisfying album than I am a Bird Now. The songs (as a whole) are stronger, and the music more varied — the texture is more orchestral this time around, and ‘Kiss My Name’ is heading towards jaunty (musically if not lyrically).
But it’s Hegarty’s voice that dominates, and when he gives it free rein to soar, that’s when the album is at its best — see, for example, the title track. The lyrics of ‘Another World’ may read simplistically (‘I’m gonna miss the sea, gonna miss the snow’), but when sung by Hegarty, they can still get under the skin. And the album has several big, orchestral epics, like ‘Everglade’.
Although The Crying Light hangs together as an album, musically and lyrically — themes and images of nature proliferate — I don’t know whether I’d want to listen to it all in one go again, at least not for a while. It seems the kind of music best heard piece by piece — and I’m pretty sure that there’s even more to appreciate in it than I’ve already found.