Antony Hegarty’s newest worth a listen

Antony and the Johnsons
“The Crying Light”
4.5 stars out of 5

Four years after winning Great Britain’s revered Mercury Prize for his masterpiece sophomore album “I Am A Bird Now,” Antony Hegarty returns for his much awaited third LP. Along with his backing band, the Johnsons, Hegarty has delivered another record of majestic piano-based chamber pop that touches on the themes of life, death and loneliness.

Antony’s emotions are apparent in the somber, minimalistic “Another World” in which he wonders about the afterlife and missing the natural world. At the album’s midway point, this holdover from 2007’s “Another World” EP, is the point on which the album hinges and gains identity.

Given the group’s history, it should come as no surprise Antony’s trembling vibrato proves the record’s most memorable quality, though the often-elegant strings and woodwinds provide a fine backdrop. When a little more percussion is added to the mix, tracks like “Aeon” and “Kiss My Name” are nearly as satisfying.

While the music of Antony and the Johnsons is typically an acquired taste, it is certainly worth the time and effort of the listener. “The Crying Light” serves as a beautiful depiction of human dreams and vulnerability – an essential listen for early ’09.

Key Tracks: “Another World,” “Epilepsy is Dancing,” “Aeon”

Bang Camaro
“Bang Camaro II”
3 stars out of 5

Who needs verses when you’ve got awesome guitar solos? Bang Camaro shamelessly indulges in the pop-metal of Van Halen and Whitesnake. Their craft gained some attention when they were featured on Guitar Hero, and since then, the group has collected a solid following.

With up to 20 vocalists, referring to themselves collectively as “The Choir,” and more guitar parts than one wants to count, it’s obvious that Bang Camaro’s in it for fun. The sheer silliness of the record has a charm that’s difficult to resist. Take the song “Thunderclap” for example, which is essentially a three-minute guitar solo with no structure.

The rest of the tracks fall in line with this philosophy. Epic refrains are found almost everywhere and the band’s hard-rocking attitude is relentless. As with any gimmick-centric band, some songs work better than others, and the band has a real clinker near the end when they attempt melodicism on “The Hit.” However, there’s no point in putting a magnifying glass up to a group that defies criticism.

These days, it seems like every band is a revival of some older sound and, in a way, it’s refreshing to find a revivalist band free of pretense.

Key Tracks: “Revolution”