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I Am a Bird Now

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Album Review

Antony and the Johnsons' second full-length recording, the haunting and affecting I Am a Bird Now, is a far more intimate affair than their debut. Antony's bluesy parlor room cadence is more upfront here, resulting in a listening experience that's both exhilarating and disquieting. "Hope There's Someone" is a somber opener, and its plea for companionship, augmented by a sparse piano/vocal arrangement that rises into the air by song's end in a swirl of multi-tracked harmonies, is ultimately uplifting. This formula is applied to much of the record and never ceases to elicit honest emotion from either Antony or his numerous guests. Rufus Wainwright takes the lead on "What Can I Do?," a languid meditation on death that conjures up images of rainy streets, lonely lampposts, and cigar smoke — it's brief (under two minutes) but alluring like the cover of a Raymond Chandler novel. Boy George joins Antony for a duet on the soulful and empowering "You Are My Sister," Devendra Banhart lends his warbly tenor to the lush "Spiraling," and Lou Reed plays noodly guitar and recites an anonymous poem on the mischievous "Fistful of Love." It's a testament to Antony's skill as a writer and arranger that these guest appearances are completely devoid of pretense, and while each artist is reverent to the source material, it's still Antony's show, as the most powerful moments on I Am a Bird Now are his.


Formed: 1995 in New York, NY

Genre: Alternative

Years Active: '90s, '00s, '10s

U.K.-born, California-raised Antony Hegarty felt like the consummate outsider until coming face to face with the image of Boy George on the cover of the Culture Club's 1982 debut album, Kissing to Be Clever. Eight years later, Hegarty relocated to New York City and found a world more accepting of avant-garde sensibilities and a sexually ambiguous nature. An early incarnation was the cabaret ensemble Blacklips, modeled after Blue Velvet-era Isabella Rossellini and the drag queen who graced the cover...
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I Am a Bird Now, Antony & The Johnsons
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