Antony and the Johnsons
Antony and the Johnsons are a Mercury Prize-winning music act from New York City, New York, United States. The band is fronted by Anohni (f.k.a. Antony) who was born in 1971 and is a transgender woman.
During the mid 90s Antony started solo; after originally producing songs with Blacklips Performance Cult and other late-night cabarets she had a number of songs to work with. In 1995 she assembled a backing group—the self-styled Antony and the Johnsons—and began to focus on the musical side of her performances. The group built up a cult following at hip New York clubs such as the Kitchen and Knitting Factory. Antony then received a NYFA for “performance art/emergent forms” which she used to record the Johnsons' debut album “Blue Angel”, that remained unreleased until Current 93 leader David Tibet signed Antony and the Johnsons to his Durtro label. The cast list of musicians on the album, released under the title "Antony and the Johnsons" in 1998, included Baby Dee (harp), Francois Gehin (bass), Todd Cohen (drums), Charles Neilson (guitar), and a number of string and woodwind players. This album later were reissued in 2000 and in 2004 by Secretly Canadian.
This collection of modern torch songs highlighted Antony's soulful, multi-octave vocals and the Johnsons' graceful chamber pop arrangements, reaching a peak on "Cripple And The Starfish" and "Divine", the latter a tribute to the late transvestite movie star. Further recordings by Antony and the Johnsons emerged in the early years of the new millennium, including "I Fell in Love with a Dead Boy" and a shared EP “Live at St. Olave's” with Current 93, recorded live at Saint Olave's Church in London, England.
Split EP included two new songs from the Johnsons, the first being You Stand Above Me, only one minute and thirty-six seconds long but containing all the melancholy and drama one would expect from the Johnsons. The other new track was The Lake which was an 1827 poem written by Edgar Allan Poe beautifully adapted to song. The Johnsons appear with Current 93 again on a 7”, with side B including the song Virgin Mary. This was limited to 500 copies, both released May 12th, 2003. By now the line-up of the Johnsons featured Todd Cohen, Jeff Langston (bass), Jason Hart (piano), Julia Kent (cello), Joan Wasser (violin), and Maxim Moston (violin).
It was around this time that Lou Reed heard the “I Fell in Love with a Dead Boy” EP. Reed then recruited Antony for his album The Raven for guest vocals and took her on tour in 2003 which meant that Antony appeared on Lou’s live album Animal Serenade. With the band now attracting wider attention, Antony and the Johnsons signed to US based label Secretly Canadian. Secretly Canadian then reissued the band's debut to a wider audience in the USA.
The Lake was released the following year through the new label. It’s another 3 song EP including "The Lake" - Lou Reed appeared on Fistful of Love with guest vocals and guitar. The Horror Has Gone seems to be Antony expressing the end of a depressing phase in her life, a positive lyrical change from her debut style.
In February 2005 Antony and the Johnsons released their second full length, I Am A Bird Now. It has guest appearances from Rufus Wainwright, Devendra Banhart, Lou Reed and Boy George. It went on to receive great critical acclaim in the UK and won Antony the Technics Mercury Music Prize for 2005.
In 2006 Antony appeared in the Leonard Cohen tribute concert and subsequent film "I'm Your Man." Her performance of "If It Be Your Will" is perhaps the highlight of the film.
The 5-song Another World EP was released on October 7, 2008. As promised, it shows a mixture of continuation of earlier songs' atmosphere as well as more experimental work. Antony and the Johnsons' third album, "The Crying Light", was released on January 19, 2009. This was followed by "Swanlights" in October, 2010. Both of these latter albums are less melodic and more experimental in nature the Antony's earlier work and have met with critical acclaim yet little commercial success.