tue 14/07/2020

CD: Angus & Julia Stone - Angus & Julia Stone | reviews, news & interviews

CD: Angus & Julia Stone - Angus & Julia Stone

CD: Angus & Julia Stone - Angus & Julia Stone

Aussie siblings’ folk-rock is finely crafted but lacks emotional ballast

Brother and sister: fine writing unfulfilled by downy voices

Three releases into their career as a duo, the Sydney-based Stone siblings have named an album after themselves. Whether the muse simply couldn’t supply an alternative (several of the tracks, particularly “Main Street” and “Heart Beats Slow” might have communicated more) or new producer Rick Rubin was aiming at a mini relaunch after the pair supposedly split and embarked on solo careers, has not been disclosed.

Musically, we’re in the middle of the road, with American folk going one way, rock the other, and the Stones are on the small island between lanes, waiting for the little green man. There are interesting musical colours, such as the synth and country guitar on “Grizzly Bear”, but overall, there’s a soft-focus rock feel to many of the tracks that will neither offend nor inspire. Lyrics, however, which they’re collaborating on for the first time, often have a memorable intensity, verging on the poetic. “Main Street”, with its refrain about the lights they’ve lost, and the opener, “A Heartbreak”, which has a vivid first line about “parents… lying about falling in love”, are both finely crafted.

Julia has been feted for the wind-chapped, alt-folk quality of her voice, while Angus is said to have a fluting, Paul Simon-esque lyricism. Neither is really outstandingly original as a soloist, though they do work well together, when Julia’s crackling complements Angus’s burnished lightness, especially when the instrumental line gives them space to be heard, as it does on the ambling, half-spoken, “Other Things”. Yet, given the blend of sensuality and disillusion that simmers during this album, sometimes startling for a sibling act, both of them sound too young. They never quite escape a mood of jostick-scented, gap-year angst, when the lyrics demand voices with grit and emotional ballast.

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