Review : Angus & Julia Stone - Down The Way
BbcAustralian brother-and-sister duo Angus and Julia Stone, while nothing if not easy on the ear, are an acquired taste. Their habit of alternating tracks – she sings one, he sings one – makes them a trickier pitch than one where the dominant voice sets the mood.
This is a particularly unorthodox approach given that Julia possesses the kind of voice that generally sends critics into raptures. High and pained, it bears trace elements of Björk, Harriet Wheeler, Kristin Hersh, Jesca Hoop and Alison Shaw of Cranes. As a solo artist, she’d get quicker traction. Yet the contrasting laidback stoner tones of Angus are essential to the siblings’ appeal. Once you get into step, the yin and yang of his and hers make for a deft emotional map. She sounds edgy, all heartstrings; he’s chilled, all ennui. Hung across minimal, beautiful songs, it’s a powerful mix of gentle angst.
Down the Way, their second full album, is a quiet storm. Their overall restraint is commendable, with fine details proving as moving as pyrotechnics might try to be in less subtle hands. Hold On (opening in a wave of shimmer) and For You are Julia warming up her palpitations, giving us a warning nod before ripping our emotions from our chests. Angus, meanwhile, grooves away to himself like the most talented busker in the world, disinterested in reaching out, bringing an organic sun-kissed vibe to Big Jet Plane. Here, simplistic lyrics gain gradual resonance, like a mantra. (Elsewhere, their lyrics are often their weak spot, lapsing into hippie cliché). Around the mid-point, Down the Way grows into something which surpasses their delicate debut and expands their sweet acoustic softness without getting hard-hearted....full text
GuardianThe Stone siblings grew up in a beach town near Sydney, but their second album as a vocal/guitar duo sounds like it was made by Americans with a yen for Fleetwood Mac and Joanna Newsom. As on their debut, the core of the music is dusty, derelict folk that's either ghostly or impossibly twee, depending on which Stone is singing lead (while initially entrancing, Julia's little-girl gulps and tweets – Walk It Off is infested with them – soon have you hitting fast-forward). This time, though, they've expanded the sound: there are velvety textures, lush(er) arrangements and, occasionally, actual choruses. And when the Stones harmonise against a background of faraway guitar and strings, the combined voices make songs such as Black Crow feel magical. The west-coast influence couldn't be more evident – on Yellow Brick Road, Angus even admits, "I fell in love in California" – and in this case it's worked out fruitfully....full text
FiltermagazineStateside, last we heard from Australian brother-and-sister duo Angus & Julia Stone was precisely one year ago, as the delayed release of their debut record finally washed against American shores. In my review then, I said that besides the fact that they are siblings, Angus and Julia are, simply, talented musicians—specifically, talented musicians who work exceptionally well together. Nothing has changed there, but what has is a new expansion of their straightforward sound. And while their debut was an obvious formula in some ways (girl + keyboards, guy + guitar = low-tempo, breezy folk), it was undeniably good. For number two, Julia remains effectively consistent in her role as the older (and perhaps wiser) sister, navigating the treacherous waters of serious relationships and breakups. Her “And the Boys” hits an ethereal benchmark of romantic expectations, risks and lessons. As for Angus, it’s he who’s done the most obvious maturing when it comes to songwriting, visualized clearest in his enrapturing six-and-a-half-minute deconstruction, “Draw Your Swords.” If A Book Like This compounded the prospects of their future, consider Down the Way the fulfilling realization of all expectations....full text
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