Elegantly composed and painstakingly arranged, Swanlights presents no huge departure from Antony and the Johnsons' previous work but comfortably matches its exquisite high points. As hesitant piano is joined by evocative strings, Antony's incomparable voice remains the focal point it has always been, trembling wildly as if being played on mangled analogue tape.
As is always the case with Mr. Hegarty, it takes a number of turns before Swanlights reveals its full potency. Flutes dance among plucked strings and glorious harmonies on Salt Silver Oxygen while Thank You For Your Love is transformed into a vibrant soul number with some lively brass. Vocally, Bjork is the perfect complement to Antony, making an appearance on Flétta, an unadorned duet with in her native Icelandic. Only closer Christina's Farm seems to amble directionless through its seven minute duration, slowly becoming a laborious listen.
Though the tone of Swanlights is still sombre, somehow it doesn't feel quite as melancholy as The Crying Light and its predecessors. Rather, Swanlights is full of drama. Antony is one of a kind when it comes to putting emotion into his music, and here it ranges from the overwhelming physical sensations of I'm In Love to The Great White Ocean's lullaby of sorrowful content. Still, there are those numbers that convey that familiar sense of wretched hopelessness. But though The Spirit Was Gone aches with pain and confusion, the simplicity of its piano and meagre string arrangement makes it one of the most startlingly beautiful pieces here. One of many.