Review: Angus and Julia Stone – Snow

Although they have been creating acoustic deliciousness for over ten years, the Australian brother-sister duo are still managing to produce music that is innovative, complex and alluring.

‘Snow’ opens their latest release with a collocation of overtly feminine vocals – provided by Julia – and Angus’ pleasant murmurs that gently weave through the mix of soft rock, light pop and acoustic rhythms. Julia promises an endless dream of summer with a sweetly-sung ‘la’ refrain, whilst the other half of the team undercuts her angelic style with his blunt drawl.

In ‘Oakwood’, slowly-paced drum beats and melancholic guitar riffs create a backdrop of lament. Whilst Julia’s breathiness governs the initial track, the following piece illuminates the allure of Angus’ voice as he depicts a tale of desperate and silent yearning. ‘Chateau’ is the moment in the sequence where Julia’s vocals take on a seductive charm, as the listener is intoxicated by a story of despair conveyed by a sugary sweet voice.

Introduced by a collocation of beautifully tragic harp playing and frantic guitar riffs, ‘Chateau’ captures the inescapable sadness that looms over young love.  Julia’s detached vocals cement the theme of inevitable heartbreak and imbue the track with a painful despondence that is not dissimilar from the hyperbolic glittery sadness of a Lana Del Rey track. The sombre piano playing in ‘Sleep Alone’ illuminate the feeling of emotional detachment conveyed by the lyrics.

‘Make It Out Alive’, conversely, invites the listener to escape the self-pity in the first half of the album and reasserts the positivity asserted by ‘Snow’. The use of the evocative refrain ‘Everyone is gonna make it alive’ and the reduction of heaviness in Julia’s vocals in the track saves the album from drowning in a dense ocean of emotional and auditory turmoil.

‘Who Do You Think You Are’ reinforces this thematic and lyrical positivism – and to great effect. Whilst the two musicians demonstrate ability to interlace indie rock and classic pop is exhibited throughout the album, their emphasis on the theme of sombre reflection during the first handful of songs threatens limits the overall effect of the album. They made the right decision in retuning to a wider array of thematic and styles for the latter half of the album.

Different to anything else in the collection ‘Nothing Else’ is a gorgeous acoustic piece that gently wanders to an end whilst Julia whispers lyrics that echo the innocent excitement of young love. This is the most satisfying track of the album, and testifies each sibling’s capacity for telling stories through music.

In ‘My House Your House’, a story of emotional discomfort is evoked through emotive lyrics whilst a surface of uplifting sound is retained in a detachment between form and content resembling the most effective work of The Smiths.

Angus’ voice dominates ‘Bloodhound’ as he recites a heart wrenching soliloquy on the oppression of a chaotic life. This is not only thematically-promising, but is almost poignant, as most listeners will be able to relate to the modern plague of social media interference that the lyrics seem to be getting at. ‘Baudelaire’, in contrast, is a fusion of slowly-paced drumming and gloomy piano chords that strikes the listener with an overwhelming feeling of malaise from the very beginning.

Snow exemplifies the talent that Angus and Julia Stone each possess as both musicians and poets. This latest release will subtly lure its listeners into a trance of dreamy acoustics and attractive musical collations.

Beth Andralojc

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