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Boomkat Product Review:
After the dark introspection of previous album The Crying Light, Antony Hegarty returns with a tentatively optimistic new collection of songs for the fourth Antony & The Johnsons full-length, Swanlights.
It's another achingly beautiful piece of work, and one that announces itself with the resoundingly positive 'Everything Is New' - a song that hovers in a minor key populated by harps and desolate pianos, yet still seems curiously upbeat in the wider context of Antony's discography. Recent single, 'Thank You For Your Love' further emphasises the clarity of the album's delivery, getting right to the heart of the matter with direct, largely unambiguous lyrics and a jubilant horn section. In between such moments you'll find a swelling complexity creeping into the mesmerising orchestral arrangements of 'Ghost' while darker shades begin to creep into 'The Spirit Was Gone', whose minimal, monotone refrain gives Hegarty plenty of scope for a finely dramatised vocal performance that packs a considerable emotional heft. In a more experimental mode, 'Swanlights' has the feel of something from David Sylvian's Blemish LP, swaddled in a pulsing tremolo guitar drone and closely mic-ed vocals, unencumbered by a backbeat. The album's final three entries prove especially powerful: 'Fletta' is a wonderful duet with Bjork, who returns the favour of Antony's appearance on her Volta track 'The Dull Flame Of Desire' with a showstopping turn alongside Hegarty's ostinato keywork. Both 'Salt Silver Oxygen' and 'Christina's Farm' put orchestral instrumentation to brilliant use, bringing the very best out of Antony's writing with vast, almost operatic arrangements that seem to perfectly frame her singular, tremulous vocal - a commanding and magisterial presence throughout Swanlights.