It’s musicians like Antony Hegarty who show us that true beauty doesn’t always derive from society’s typical standards. With his gangly black hair falling lifelessly past his shoulders and a frumpy posture that solemnly captures his somber, melancholy demeanor, Hegarty isn’t exactly the poster child for pretty.
A good friend had only recently introduced me to the singer who’s band goes by Antony and the Johnsons. After watching some videos of him and listening to his angelic voice crying out a cover of Leonard Cohen’s “If It Be Your Will,” and “Hope There’s Someone,” from his 2005 album I Am a Bird Now, I became trapped inside a cocoon of emotion and instantly became a new fan.
Hegarty’s artistry is truly unique and his soft, unsteady (yet powerfully entrancing) voice is the epitome of beauty within. Swanlights, the fourth full-length album released by Antony and the Johnsons, is deeply emotional. This shouldn’t be a surprise if you’re a current fan of Hegarty’s music. In fact, like much of his previous music, it’s so touching that it borders on the cusp of being sacred.
Listening to Swanlights is like going on a winding spiritual journey deep within oneself. A journey that, for me, is full of discovery and self-reflection, full of joy and full of sadness. It is sometimes happy, sometimes sad, and has an equal array of lightness and darkness that is profoundly rewarding.
Hegarty teams up with Bjork on the song “Fletta” to give us a nice little added bonus (as if we needed one). I guess it was only a matter of time before these two eccentric artists crossed paths. Because this song is sung in Icelandic (and because it’s Bjork) it comes across as somewhat abstract. Perhaps they are trying to show us that we don’t always have to fully understand something in order to find beauty in it.
The instrumental orchestration of sound placement in “Salt Silver Oxygen” is superb. The flute gives the song wings while the strings and brass make it come alive. Each time I listen to this song I find new hidden treasures that make me appreciate it all the more.
“The Great White Ocean” is a beautiful ode to family about the yearning to stay connected even after treading the waters of death. Changing directions, Hegarty rejoices in “I’m In Love,” singing, “I’ve been touched and I’ve been touched, and it’s too much and it’s too much.”
Hegarty is an artist in every sense of the word. Aside from his lyrical talent, his musical abilities as a great composer, and his distinct vocals, he is also the master of tempo and crescendo. You can tell each song is written from a place deep within his soul and each seems to embody the very essence of emotion. I actually believe he is a genius.
I’m thankful for vulnerable artists like Hegarty who give us a peek into their soul, and also for dear friends who take a moment to discover and then share such beauty.