Angus & Julia Stone –‘Angus & Julia Stone’ (August 2014)
★★★★ (4/5 stars)
Having had huge success with their first album ‘Down The Way’ back in 2010, Sydney’s brother-sister duo ‘Angus & Julia Stone’ slipped quietly off the radar for a couple of years.
Although both siblings chose to focus on solo careers, an unexpected approach from producer Rick Rubin ensured that they are now back together again.
The self-titled album ‘Angus and Julia Stone’ released early last month, opens with a track called ‘A Heartbreak’, something completely different to harmonic, folky songs the Stones are known for. Singing in unison, the pair announces: “I met your parents. They were lying / About falling in love.”
The next song ‘ My Word For It’ continues the uncharacteristic change in musical direction for the duo, with slightly more troubling lyrics and an angrier sound.
‘Grizzly Bear’ has the vibes of a soul song, with Angus pushing his vocals to their limit, whereas ‘Get Home’ sounds like a song that’s bound to be featured in a teen drama.
The single ‘Heart beats Slow’, highlights the interweaving harmonies of the duo, making for a radio-friendly and catchy song. It was also the first glimpse of what the new album had to offer the Angus and Julia’s avid fans.
Julia showcases her fragile voice right in the middle of the album, with ‘Death Defying Acts’. Pouring out lines such as “I will perform a death-defying miracle / for someone with the chemicals to believe” with such emotion and heart.
Vocally, it is a standout performance by Julia, her theatrical delivery, is a highlight of the album.
The duo are finally writing together after an album full of independently written songs, and it seems to also be working in their favour. At the same time, the siblings retain their individual sounds and identities throughout the album. Angus with his chilled out, clear vocal style contrasted with Julia’s sandpaper-like voice and emotional tone.
Angus’ highlight is the closing track of the album, ‘Crash and Burn’. Although quite long, at almost 7 minutes in length, the slow-building ‘Neil Young’ inspired guitar jam is a groovy and pleasant end to the album.
Lyrically, the album doesn’t have the same effect as the duo’s former album ‘Down the Way’; short form repeated chorus lines are perfectly suited to these types of songs. However, the laid-back lyrics are saved by the emotion in Angus and Julia’s voices, paired with their warm, familiar harmonies.
Angus and Julia both excel as solo artists, but the unique way their voices blend together makes them even better as a duo. It’s easy to see what Rick Rubin saw in them when he pursued them.
Although it doesn’t amount to the previous Angus & Julia albums, the difference in the musical content may be why everyone seems to love this new album so much.
No one knows what will become of the pair once touring commitments are over, whether they will resume solo careers or not, but hopefully it’s not the last we hear from the brother-sister duo.
The album may be lengthy, (13 tracks, with 16 for the deluxe edition) but is still an enjoyable, yet raw and edgy album from the Sydney siblings.
By Katrina Tauro