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Antony & the Johnsons

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"Antony has come a long way since he began figuring out songs by Soft Cell, Yaz and other New Wave greats on his first keyboard, given to him for his eleventh birthday. Though he was teased as a child by school mates for wearing a Da Peaches Moldy [Depeche Mode] patch on his backpack, situations like this only seem to have driven him further away from a dreary life of conformity.
(...) Though his musical tastes have progressed through the course of his career, Antony went through his New Wave period, admiring such singers as Marc Almond (with his Marc and the Mambas), and since has become enamored with the great American soul and jazz voices, including Billie Holiday, Nina Simone, and Otis Reading. In his free time, he also listens to artists such as Billy Basinski, who writes ambient music, Elisabeth Fraser (of Cocteau Twins) and of course David Tibet and Current 93, (with their CD "Soft Black Stars" as his favorite).
(...) The works of Antony and the Johnsons are released on David Tibet's Durtro label. Tibet first discovered Antony through a mutual friend, who had given him Antony's demo. Antony counts his connection with the label and his friendship with Tibet as a great endorsement, as well as one of the main reasons why his releases have been given so much 'air time' and acceptance in the press. He thinks of his newfound credibility factor with larger music magazines like Wire as "a gift from David." He says, "These are journalists who never in a million years would have listened to my music, because I was too ambiguous, or maybe my fruitiness...or the faggotry might have been too much for them."
-- Madeline Virbasius-Walsh, The Sentimentalist, Vol II Issue VI Spring 01

"...the New York-based Johnsons are more of a mystery. Their two releases — a self-titled album and a three-song EP — are only available on Durtro, an obscure UK label operated by David Tibet and his band, Current 93. Antony, who describes his performance style as "a more aggressive course of faggotry than the average fag might present," learned his trade through formal university theater training by day and singing and dancing in East Village drag bars by night. But where some artists camp it up to get silly, Antony does it to get positively celestial. His voice — a weird and spectral distillation of Nina Simone, Otis Redding, Kate Bush and Judy Garland — reaches for the heavens with nearly every phrase, while the nine-piece Johnsons lay a foundation of lush yet minimal chamber orchestral arrangements."
-- Walter Wasacz, Metro Times, Detroit, 6/2001

 Antony & the Johnsons Discography - Album / CD Reviews


***½ 2000: Antony and the Johnsons

"Antony, the proudly androgynous front man, is a blazing star of emotion. His stunning voice is capable of restrained beauty, hall filling depths and powerful, soaring highs wherever necessary. The skilled 10 piece orchestra breathes melodramatic life around and into Antony's words and piano with an array of strings and winds, gentle guitars and drums. The sound is organic and full, the songs well written and composed throughout ... artsy, but not pretentiously so, much like Dirty Three or Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds. There are no duds, a nice flow and a well balanced variety of tempos and moods within individual songs and the album as a whole. This is a gorgeous piece of work, especially for a debut album, that approaches perfection. The only thing that might possibly help to make it more perfect would simply be more since it's only a little over half an hour long. "
-- Mark Weddle, home.kscable.com/weddle/reviews/antony.html

***½ 2001: I Fell In Love with a Dead Boy (EP)audio
"...On their new three-track EP, Antony and his pals throw down some of the most beautiful and disturbing music since his spritual forebears, The Virgin Prunes, released A New Form of Beauty in the early 80s to the horror and astonishment of the general public. Deploying his undulating, vibrato-laden alto voice like a laser, Antony drills these teary, sentiment-laden stories of androgyny, necrophilia and other heady stuff straight into the place where your heart would be—if you still had one. The title track is gorgeous and hideous in the best possible way—by which I mean Poe as seen through a cracked, postpunk lookingglass. Also included is the Lynch/Badalamenti classic, "Mysteries of Love," from Blue Velvet, and a cuddly/creepy cover of David Tibet's "Soft Black Stars." The music is a narcoleptically lush, string-laden net of neoromantic, almost new age gossamer, featuring the divines Joan Wasser (Dambuilders/Black Beetle) and Julia Kent (Rasputina) on viola and cello, along with Antony himself on Piano... "
-- LD Beghtol, RockPile, May 2001

2005: I am a Bird Now
Tracklisting: 01.Hope There's Someone 02.My Lady Story 03.For Today I Am A Boy 04.Man is the Baby 05.You Are My Sister 06.What Can I Do? 07.Fistfull of Love 08.Spiralling 09.Free at Last 10.Bird Girl
"Unlike most genres, cabaret has never really garnered mass-market appeal. But you'd never know it by listening to Antony. For almost 15 years now, he has been honing his craft in dark New York clubs, before making his way to established venues, places where gender-bending and identity politics aren't really the norm. Over time people took notice, including Rufus Wainwright, Lou Reed and Devendra Banhart, all of whom show up on the Johnsons' second full-length. Along with these vocal talents, downtown jazzers Steve Bernstein and Doug Wieselman lend some horn arrangements. But luckily, the cornerstones to this album aren't just Antony's hipster connections. In fact, these helping hands offer background contributions, at best. The true star is Antony's raw, emotional voice, one in which you can almost hear actual feelings being conveyed. That's taken for granted too often these days, especially with the bludgeoning, monochromatic sentiments that purvey “emo” rock. To be sure, 'I Am a Bird Now' is as authentic sounding as Antony is passionate, which is the hallmark of this work. His style won't convert everyone, although his introspective lyrics and unique vocal arrangements would make the casual onlooker question what's going on. Confusion is a natural thing; why not embrace it?"
-- Michael D. Ayers, Billboard.com, 2/05

2009: The Crying Light
Tracklisting: 1. Her Eyes Are Underneath the Ground 2. Epilepsy Is Dancing 3. One Dove 4. Kiss My Name 5. The Crying Light 6. Another World 7. Daylight and the Sun 8. Aeon 9. Dust and Water 10. Everglade
Release date: Jan 21, 2009

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Recommended Links:

Official Antony and the Johnsons site

 
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Marc Almond | Voltaire | Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds | Diary of Dreams | Kate Bush | Associates

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