Album Review

Antony and the Johnsons, 'Swanlights'

October 11, 2010

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With his fourth album “Swanlights,’’ Antony Hegarty has created his most arresting set of songs to date. Those willing to succumb to his dark vibrato, aggressive delicacy, and the ornate beauties of his compositions will be richly rewarded by familiar swelling strings and urgently twinkling pianos (like those that trail his wildly doodled croon on “Ghost’’). And it’s hard not to smile along to “I’m In Love’’ as it emerges from its tangle of looping organs, sweetly capturing that moment when love graduates from desire to fact. Those who find Hegarty’s signature style too wild to follow might counterintuitively consider the deluxe edition. While no Rosetta Stone, the 144-page hardbound book of his own photos, drawings, and collages does supply a fresh lens through which to appraise him — an artist who has always seemed more confined by his songs than completed by them. Like his music, his visual work plays the implicit against the explicit. And if Hegarty’s central metaphor is nature itself, “Swanlights’’ catches him cracking into full bloom — just in time for winter. (Out now) MICHAEL BRODEUR