Antony and the Johnsons give us a nature album

Antony and the Johnsons The Crying Light (Secretly Canadian)

Antony Hegarty's third album with his backing band the Johnsons doesn't sound much different from the first or second records—archly poetic lyrics set to moody, glacially paced minor-key chamber pop with brooding falsetto vocals. This time around, however, Hegarty's focus isn't on transgender issues, as it was on the Mercury Prize-winning I Am a Bird Now, from 2005. The Crying Light is his nature album, a Romantic ode to gardens, birds, and the ocean. Its bare emotions and naked yearning for love and comfort can be uncomfortable, yet Hegarty achieves a real affecting beauty, too, in part because of his faux-naive clash of transparency and artifice, and in part because of the elegant accompaniment of piano, cello, and violin behind him, arranged with Nico Muhly. Oddly, though, Rob Moose's bracingly amplified electric guitar on "Aeon" makes that stripped-down rock song a highlight of The Crying Light.