Available on: Secretly Canadian EP
Is Antony Hegarty immune to criticism? Listening to an Antony and the Johnsons record is like listening to your best friend cry; you’re consumed with an instinctive desire to do nothing but empathise and love him. You’re unable to think anything remotely negative. You wouldn’t say, “well, this isn’t as good as the crying you did last time, is it mate? Or perhaps it’s too similar, in fact. You should really branch out. And I really liked that time you wept along to Hercules and Love Affair. That was the best distress I’ve heard from you in years.”
This EP, which is a teaser of sorts for the album Swanlights, due out next month, is minimal in every respect. The songs are short and few, with sparse instrumentation and a handful of lyrics for each. The opening title track has a vocabulary of a few dozen words, initially expressing some varying sentiments until it breaks down into a three minute repetition of “thank you for your love” over and over, getting faster and faster. Horns come in and it becomes a carnival celebration of simpering gratitude.
‘You Are The Treasure’ is even more childishly single-minded. It is just an outpouring of endless, drippy superlatives: “you are forever / you are my friend / you are a river of milk to me.’ Antony constantly sounds on the verge of tears.
‘My Lord My Love’ is the best song on the EP. It is one of the most beautiful expressions of religious experience I’ve heard, Antony holding God up as his last refuge for emotional security, asking Him to help “my mind, lock me down at night.” It’s the most robust, consolidated song on the EP. Romance is a minefield, but God is clear and untouchable, where things are certain in their uncertainty, as Antony offers up a faltering prayer, exorcising all of his demons in this tragic, private musing.
Two covers finish the record, ‘Pressing On’ by Dylan and ‘Imagine’ by John Lennon, both on guitar whilst the other songs were all piano. The ‘Imagine’ cover stretches the lyrics out and makes them lengthy, pause-ridden pensivities. I dislike the sentiment behind ‘Imagine’ and without its original simple melody, which ironically is incredibly similar to the piano songs earlier on the EP, it’s even harder to like. Antony sounds like he’s lost any confidence he had in what he’s saying, pausing as if not for suspense, but for uncertainty. As it gets closer to the end, he begins to sound more and more concerned, his voice occasionally blurting out into random bursts of high volume, as people do when they begin to sob, and you once again forget that this is merely a record.