Saturday 24 June 2017

Music: Swanlights by Antony and the Johnsons * * *

John Meagher

John Meagher

Blessed with one of the most distinctive vocal styles in all of contemporary music, you never forget the first time you hear Antony Hegarty sing. For me, it was when he sung backing vocals at an otherwise forgettable Lou Reed gig in Dublin in 2003.

It's a voice that polarises opinion and for all of those who loved his breakthrough album, I Am A Bird Now, and its haunting follow-up, The Crying Light, there are others who can't get past the first song. That voice is back in all its evocative glory once again, but this time the songs just aren't as riveting as before. None of them are bad or lazy by any means, yet there's nothing to stop you in your tracks the way Hope There's Someone or Her Eyes are Underneath the Ground did.

And there's a misjudged duet with Bjork, herself the owner of an equally loved-or-loathed voice. Fletta could have been a magnificent union between them, yet it sounds strangely flat.

The title track offers a reminder of his gifts, not least on its gorgeous coda, while Ghost is a defiant tour-de-force replete with stirring, lively strings.

Burn it: Ghost

Irish Independent

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