Courtesy of Angus and Julia Stone
Sometimes a whisper is far more effective than a shout. Angus and Julia Stone, a brother-sister troubadour duo from Sydney, Australia, embrace this idea as they address themes of disillusionment and disappointment in their debut album, A Book Like This. The album plays like a lullaby, soft and soothing but swelling with emotion.
The title track opens with partially muted guitar plucking that soon contends with deep, growling strings. Julia saunters into the first verse, singing with sad determination. She has a voice that’s high and thin, but very gravelly, like a young child smoker. Guitar and strings crescendo in the chorus and, joined by steady piano glissandos, they build to forceful volume. Throughout the track Angus and Julia toy with volume, reeling the listener in with soft sonorous melody and then infusing the song with loud and vigorous emotion.
On the opening track, “The Beast,” Angus languidly describes the monotony of working life with cool resignation. “Pack up your bags / your work here is done / a slave to the beast / no mercy with time,” he sings, his soft and smoky voice sliding over steady strumming guitar chords. Piano accompaniment brightens the catchy chorus, giving the song a bittersweet feel.
The Stone siblings attack themes of dissatisfaction and disillusionment with this same attitude, pairing dour lyrics with richly pleasant tunes. On “Hollywood,” Julia cleverly addresses the false expectations instilled in her by the movies she watched as a child. In the real world, “Cinderella would have scrubbed those floors till her hands grew old and tired / And nobody would have looked her way,” she speculates jocularly to an ironically peppy melody.
The duo weaves pitch-perfect vocal harmonies, guitar chords, piano melodies and even harmonica and trumpet accompaniment into a story that is warm and vivid despite its simplicity. The bright quality of their music is comforting even though their lyrics speak of disappointment and dissatisfaction. Like a great novel, A Book Like This is vibrant, imaginative, complex and full of unassuming candor.
—By Entertainment Blog Editor Alex Blum