Antony and the Johnsons

You Are My Sister (Secretly Canadian)

Antony and the Johnsons
The title track of this four-song EP is a duet between Antony and Boy George from the February full-length I Am a Bird Now, which last month unexpectedly won England's coveted Mercury Prize. The surprise was not only that the obscure singer-pianist's second release beat out highly publicized albums by Coldplay, Bloc Party, and M.I.A., but also because, as Time Out editor Chris Salmon told the BBC, "Some people thought of it as an American album." By that, it seems, he meant an East Village album.

Born in England and raised in California, Antony Hegarty has worked in New York's gay-cabaret scene since 1990, and these four hymnlike tracks merely define his scene's conventions -- sad, simple piano figures underscore singsong melodies and artlessly sentimental lyrics ("You are my sister and I love you/Make all of your dreams come true"). It's all colored by Hegarty's striking white-boy version of Nina Simone's chamber-blues warble. But these selections barely hint at the force of an album cut like "Fistful of Love," a collaboration with Lou Reed, whose rousing insight into the devotion of an abused lover better explains how Hegarty's pain could soar across an ocean.

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