Spotlight \

Antony and the Johnsons

The Mercury Prize winners are back with a haunting new EP that deepens their beauty-made-of-pain aesthetic.

What? When we last saw Antony and the Johnsons, they’d released their second album, 2005’s I Am a Bird Now, to massive critical acclaim. Three years later they haven’t lost steam. In anticipation of new album The Crying Light (out in January via Secretly Canadian), the band releases the Another World EP today, and it’s full of what makes Bird so astonishing: Antony Hegarty’s almost operatic voice imbued with a weighty sadness, overlayed with strings echoing the same feeling. “I need another world / A place where I can go,” Hegarty sings on the EP’s title track. “Hope Mountain,” despite its title, doesn’t offer much cause for optimism, instead delving deeper into the beauty-made-of-pain aesthetic.

Who? Antony and the Johnsons (essentially a vehicle for Hegarty) saw their eponymous first record drop in 2000, but didn’t hit big until the release of Bird. The album, a haunting document largely concerning issues of love and transgender identity, won the Mercury Prize, an award annually awarded to the best album from the United Kingdom or Ireland. From there, Hegarty became a sought-after star, collaborating with the likes of Bjork. More recently, he contributed vocals to Andy Butler’s disco project Hercules and Love Affair.

Fun Fact: Although the band first received widespread attention with I Am a Bird Now, Hegarty’s introduction to the (semi)mainstream came in 2003 when Lou Reed asked him to work on The Raven, the Velvet Underground singer’s Edgar Allen Poe-centric concept album.

Now Hear This: Antony and the Johnsons, “Another World”