A ‘Stone’ Cold Hit
Passionate new album from Angus and Julia Stone wows fans
Known best for their breathy, quiet vocals and acoustic indie repertoire, Angus and Julia Stone are the quintessential brother-sister duo.
The pair’s self-titled album dropped last month, with a change in direction from the muted, rolling tunes they’ve released in the past. Some songs are edgy and sexy, while others incorporate more whimsical elements, all helping to break up the near-static of so many bluesy, folksy numbers.
In “A Heartbreak” Julia reveals bitterness, singing, “Girl, you’re just a child falling in love” with a regretful voice, mingling with playful guitar pings to create a teasing tone. This appears again in “Death Defying Acts,” a smooth, sultry piece reminiscent of The Black Keys’ album “Brothers,” where the lyrics sound careless and coy. “Grizzly Bear,” as the title suggests, sounds dangerous and tantalizing, with a jazzy keyboard riff to give it personality. These characteristics pervade the atmosphere of the entire album, proving the Australian siblings attacked this album with a new energy and passion for their craft.
The introduction of heavier guitar sounds and percussion-driven songs is another interesting facet of the Stones’ self-titled album that jolts their music from soothing to intriguing. “Death Defying Acts” triumphs again with an eerily simple guitar melody and well-timed drumbeats. The structure of “Little Whiskey” relies entirely on constant snare snaps and bass taps. All this reinforces the duo’s new direction and emotion.
The band’s lyrics and vocals remain just as thought-provoking as always. Testing out call-and-response style singing, the two give “Heart Beats Slow” a great depth and use the technique to bring in elements of their traditionally soft style in “Wherever You Are,” a gorgeous ballad. The latter track would mean more if the band members weren’t family, however, as they romantically croon: “Don’t take my word for it, just look at me to know that I love you.”
“A Heartbreak” exhibits the fine voices of both Angus and Julia, and the two are impossible not to adore, but the music is infinitely more interesting to hear when they sing simultaneously. Other points in the album simply beg for an emotional and ethical analysis — in “Please You,” for example, Angus muses to an acquaintance, “She just dying to please you, she won’t leave ‘till it’s done.” Such lines spark a maddening intrigue in listeners.
The album’s overarching themes and tones are exactly what well-established artists like Angus and Julia Stone should hope for at this later point in their joint career: a reinvigoration of their older, familiar styles and sounds mashed together with wholly experimental elements to maintain popular interest in their material.