Album review: Antony And The Johnsons - Swanlights (Secretly Canadian)

A jubilant and beautiful fourth album for Antony Hegarty - and the CD booklet is rather good too

Essentially what a CD booklet always wanted to be when it grew up, Anthony Hegarty’s fourth album comes encased in a large hard-backed book of his cut’n’paste surrealist collages which cries ‘THIS IS ART!’ as loud and proud as any amount of affected he/she warbling. Thankfully, the album slipped into this HMV shelf-stacker’s worst nightmare largely justifies such grand pretensions. For every ‘Everything Is New’ – a looping chamber quartet refrain of the title that’s as artful and pointless as Radiohead’s ‘Everything In Its Right Place’ – there’s a direct and devastating ode to death like ‘The Great White Ocean’. For every bout of backwards-piano esoterica (the title track) there’s a funksome brass-pop corker (‘Thank You For Your Love’).

And for every burst of lyrical ayahuasca – “Elect the salt mother/For she’s a selective Christ/Punch her ghost!” goes ‘Salt Silver Oxygen’ – there’s an ‘I’m In Love’, all jubilant romance and hand-claps. A record of beauty and balance, ‘Swanlights’ cements Hegarty as the transgender Joanna Newsome: artsy and challenging enough for the Guardian chin-strokers, but with enough hushed melodic wallop to seduce all-comers. It’ll hit you like a punch to the ghost.

Mark Beaumont

Click here to get your copy of Antony And The Johnsons'
'Swanlights' from Rough Trade Shops.
7 / 10

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