Category Archives: Antony and the Johnsons

Albums of 2010: 20 – 16

16. Treats – Sleigh Bells

Arriving like a fist to the face of pop music – huh? – Sleigh Bells, aka producer/guitarist Derek E. Miller and singer Alexis Krauss – make music that’s abrasive yet poppy, aggressive yet strangely sweet, noisy yet hummable. Treats followed an internet buzz so loud is threatened to drown out the actual songs, but there’s a lot to enjoy here. Opener ‘Tell ‘Em’ is essentially one long guitar riff and some cheap beats, ‘Kids’ is old school hip-hop meets Girls Aloud, whilst the brilliant ‘Rill Rill’ is the soundtrack to the best teen romcom you’ve ever seen. It may not stand the test of time – who cares right? – but for now Treats is a thrilling, fun, totally rad hardcore pop album. Man.

Best track: ‘Crown On The Ground’

17. Swanlights – Antony & The Johnsons

For their fourth album, Antony Hegarty and his Johnsons created a song suite focused on both the personal and the global. First single ‘Thank You For Your Love’ found Hegarty in joyful mood, whilst opener ‘Everything Is New’ imagined some kind of emotional cleansing and ‘I’m In Love’ was practically upbeat. Still, this is an Antony & The Johnsons record so introspection was just behind the corner, with the haunting ‘The Spirit Was Gone’ and the abstract title track creating that unsettling feeling only they seem to be able to muster. The highlight is the piano-lead duet, ‘Fletta’, in which Hegarty lets Bjork‘s crystalline vocals lead the way to devastating effect.

Best track: ‘Fletta’

18. Record Collection – Mark Ronson & The Business International

Out went the brass and the cover versions and in came stylish synthpop and renewed credibility on Mark Ronson’s follow-up to the zillion-selling Versions album. Lead single ‘Bang Bang Bang’ – featuring the brilliantly laconic Q-Tip and soon-to-be reasonably big, MNDR – was the perfect introduction to an album that features at least five stone-cold pop classics. Rose Elinor Dougall lends a sleek vulnerability to the excellent ‘You Gave Me Nothing’, whilst Boy George croons his way through the dramatic, lip-quiveringly sad, ‘Somebody To Love Me’. Elsewhere, Ronson roped in everyone from D’Angelo (the odd ‘Glass Mountain Trust’) to Duran Duran (the Wiley-assisted title track), creating a party mix to end all party mixes.

Best track: ‘Bang Bang Bang’

19. /\/\/\Y/\ – M.I.A

Critics darling, political activist, pop star. M.I.A was all of these things at the start of 2010 and yet around the release of her tetchy, hard-to-love third album things started to go slightly awry. Long pieces were written in important magazines about how much of hypocrite she was, how she loved expensive truffles and how she was the root cause of the economic meltdown (OK, maybe not the last one). The critics who adored her turned on her, her politics seemed like simple rhetoric and the album flopped. Still, dig beneath the shards of guitar feedback or the sound of drilling that peppers the album and there are some moments of perfection; the clattering, Britney-esque XXXO, the murky Teqkilla, the future-pop of Tell Me Why, to name just three.

Best track: ‘Tell Me Why’

20. One Life Stand – Hot Chip

Despite lacking an out and out chart smash like their previous two albums, One Life Stand was the moment pop nous and geeky musicianship coalesced into something wonderfully human. Opener ‘Thieves In The Night’ is six minutes of pure joy, Alexis Taylor’s little boy lost croon weaving in and out of galloping synths and spluttering effects. Elsewhere, I Feel Better is their attempt at modern-day R&B pop (complete with JLS-aping music video) whilst Slush is a big ballad coated in real tears.

Best track: ‘Thieves In The Night’

New Music Monday

More and more, this blog is becoming dead space apart from two weekly features and for that we are terribly sorry. It’s been a busty (wahey!) few weeks and we’re off to Iceland on Wednesday so there’s not too much to look forward to on the horizon. Plans are afoot for some interesting developments regarding content, etc, but in the meantime why not read a book instead? Perhaps tell a loved one what they mean to you? Maybe write a song about the environment and play it at your next dinner party? Either way, just stop guilt tripping us, OK! Last week’s trio did absolutely nothing chart-wise, so let’s see how these miscreants do.

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Swanlights by Antony & The Johnsons

We had the pleasure of spending the day with Antony Hegarty the other week. We saw him perform the title track from this, his fourth album, and we also sat through a lengthy (but intermittently fascinating) talk about the future of the planet and finally we were filmed having an awkward chat about other stuff. It’s fair to say we didn’t leave a lasting impression on him, but he did with us. For example, we now know he’s obsessed with his double chin, that he wants to “blow up” The Guardian building and that he spends so much time with Bjork that he mimics her speech! This album is very good by the way.

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Lucky Shiner by Gold Panda

We could have gone for Belle & Sebastian‘s new one (but it’s a bit dull), or The Age of Adz by Sufjan Stevens (but it’s a bit too precious), so we’re going with this debut album from Gold Panda (and not just because it was recorded whilst Mr Panda was dog-sitting for his parents). Whilst the opening track ‘You’ is a barmy, head-spinning rush of cut up vocal samples, elsewhere Lucky Shiner simmers down and is actually rather lovely. There’s a homely, strangely warm feeling to it and this will sound even better when we’re lost up some Icelandic mountain in a few days time.

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‘Marching Song’ by Esben and the Witch

Can we just say, Sheryl Crow has recorded a cover of the Terence Trent D’Arby classic, ‘Sign Your Name’, and it’s fucking atrocious. The end.

Instead, you should by listening to the epic doom-pop of Brighton trio, Esben and the Witch. True, a lot of ‘Marching Song’ is all a bit po-faced, a bit overly earnest, but it has a brilliant tension that runs through it. Plus, the video features violence without really showing violence, which is probably a big allegory for something but frankly we can’t be arsed thinking about it right now.

Returnal to me

This is a bit of treat for fans of Antony Hegarty’s voice. He’s done a haunting, piano-lead (what else, right?) version of Oneohtrix Point Never‘s ‘Returnal’, which translates the original’s synth-heavy blasts into funereal longing. For those that criticise Hegarty’s tendency to over-emote everything, this shows what a little restraint can do. Very lovely.

(The sound quality isn’t great, so listen to it here too)

In other news, we have a copy of Swanlights, Antony & The Johnsons new collection of club bangers, so expect an insightful ‘review’ pretty soon. Oh, and yes, the Bjork collaboration is as heart-rending as you imagine it to be. Although it’s in Icelandic so could be about Iranian foreign policy for all we know.

No, Thank You Antony

We slightly overdosed on Antony & The Johnsons last year. At one point we went to see them twice in a week, which on the one hand was amazing – beautiful, crystalline vocals, perfect sense of drama – but on the other, it was all a bit, you know, much. Anyways, we’ve had some time to re-group and we’re excited about their forthcoming album, Swanlights, which is out on 11th October (and features Bjork!!!!!)

To whet our appetites further, the band have announced the release of a five-track EP entitled, Thank You For Your Love (that’s the cover above). The EP will feature two cover versions (a Bob Dylan one and a John Lennon one), a track left off their last album, a new non-Swanlights track and the title track, which is also on the album. If that weren’t enough, you can also download the keening, horn-flecked ‘Thank You For Your Love’ for free, simply by giving away an email. Click here to do that, or just stream it below. The choice is yours.

Dirty Projectors & Björk save the whales

3mins30seconds could quite easily have been re-named WeloveBjörkwedo, but we figured it wasn’t catchy enough. Any new material from the Icelandic force of nature is enough to send us into a tizz of hurricane proportions, but when it’s paired with a band as brilliant as Dirty Projectors, it’s enough to cause a bit of a meltdown.

A few months ago Björk teamed up for a live show with the Brooklyn-based sextet, performing new songs that Dirty Projectors main man Dave Longstreth had written. Well, these songs have now been recorded and packaged as the Mount Wittenberg Orca EP and as of today you can purchase the whole thing and have a ‘whale’ of a time (ha, ha – You’re fired, Ed). The songs are cut from the same cloth as the Bitte Orca album, with Björk adding sky-scraping back-ups as only she can. Be warned, there are moments when the vocals arrive en masse and it’s enough to cause minor heart palpitations.

You can download the album from here. All proceeds go to the National Geographic Society’s Ocean Initiative.

Here’s the gorgeous ‘All We Are’ as a little taster (courtesy of Domino Records’ SoundCloud):

EDIT: We forgot to add that Björk will also appear on Swanlights, the new album from Antony & The Johnsons, due in October. The pair will appear together for the third time (Antony appeared on Volta tracks ‘My Juvenile’ and ‘The Dull Flame Of Desire’) on ‘Flétta’, which means ‘integrate’ in English apparently.

Musick’s Top 20 albums: 8

Antony & The Johnsons – The Crying Light

For the follow-up to the Mercury-prize winning, I Am A Bird Now, Antony Hegarty and his band of not-so-merry men and women, scaled down their sound to the bare bones. Piano, strings, a smattering of drums here and there and very little else augment that tremulous, haunting voice on songs that deal with the end of the world (‘Another World’), death (‘Her Eyes Are Underneath The Ground’) and father-son relationships (the bluesy ‘Aeon’). So sparse are the arrangements, that the slightest thing can trigger the raising of a hair on the back of the neck, such as the mournful flute that appears from nowhere on ‘One Dove’ or the way everything falls away during ‘Kiss My Name’ to leave a lonely drum tattoo. By the closing ‘Everglade’, however, Antony seems to be transported to a different world, as swooning, sumptuous strings cascade around a swollen vocal. Less showy it maybe, but The Crying Light is more than equal to its predecessor.

Key track: ‘One Dove’

Whole again

As 2009 lurches further towards its end, we’re left to reflect on what has been a pretty good year for music. There have been some pretty amazing albums released – Animal Collective, Annie, Antony & The Johnsons (and that’s just the ‘A’s) – but there’s one album we keep returning to and that’s Primary Colours by The Horrors.

Everyone’s already heard all about ‘the year of the second album’ and the fact that Primary Colours is this massive departure into krautrock with bits of shoegaze, etc, etc. The truth is much more straight forward; the album is well good. To make it even more well good they’re releasing a new single in November that was previously only available on the Japanese version of the album. This is the video for ‘Whole New Way’:

Yes, we mentioned the song before but it’s now a bit shorter and has images and things to go with it. Lazy you say? Yes. Yes we are.

Crazy paving

We received a very strange email this morning claiming that Beyoncé was set to release an album of maudlin covers of her own songs. The ten song set is to be called B-yond Sadness and this is the first fruit of her labour:

Very touching.

It is of course Antony & The Johnsons (it says so on the video) with their take on the pop classic. Having played it live a lot of the last few years, this studio recording is available as the b-side to recent single Aeon.