Release Date: Feb 1, 2005
Record label: Secretly Canadian / Rough Trade
Genre(s): Indie, Rock
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.
It sounds like hard work: an album by a man who sings like a woman, which deconstructs gender and jumps back and forth over the fault-line between performance art and commercial music. But the truth lies in the title. Along with the broad themes of transformation and freedom comes a knowing wink. Antony, a UK-born, US-raised cabaret artist, is gifted with a vibrato voice - think Nina Simone, Billie Holiday - that sighs with sincerity and the lyrical prowess to make the profoundly personal both accessible and ambiguous.
Much has been made of Antony’s penchant for blurring the lines of gender and identity. On “Hope There’s Someone,” I Am a Bird Now’s introduction, he sings, “Oh, I’m scared of the middle place between life and nowhere.” But there is far more to his art than aesthetic trappings. At its core, Antony’s work contains an honesty that obliterates the distance between performer and audience.