Antony & the Johnsons' second album, I Am a Bird Now, was one of the most celebrated releases of 2005. It won the prestigious Mercury Prize in the UK, brought the group to Letterman, and seemed to show up on every year-end "best of" list. I tried to like it, but I just could not.
I was certainly impressed by Antony Hegarty's otherworldly voice, but the chamber pop orchestration backing him on the album was way over the top for my liking. So, that was that. Customers at the record store would ask for my opinion on Antony & the Johnsons and I would tell them, "He has an amazing voice, but musically it's not my cup of tea."
Late last year, while listening to the excellent I'm Not There soundtrack, I was completely floored by Antony's cover of Bob Dylan's "Knockin' On Heaven's Door." This was what I wanted to hear from him: simple, elegant production over which Antony could let it all out. Absolutely stunning.
After gushing over this cover, I had several people direct me to check out his cover if "If It Be Your Will" on the Leonard Cohen documentary I'm Your Man. That is also very good, but I still prefer Cohen's original. With his take of "Knockin' On Heaven's Door," I will dare to say that I think Antony has given us the definitive version of this song. Given my love for Dylan, that is no small compliment.
Last month, Antony & The Johnsons released a new EP called Another World. It is wonderful. The new full-length album is due in January and is one of my most anticipated albums of 2009.