Review: Angus and Julia Stone – Snow

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

Titular track ‘Snow’ opens their latest release with a synthesis of angelic vocals unmistakably delivered by Julia and Angus’ pleasant murmurs that smoothly glides through the instrumental fabric of soft rock, light pop and acoustic rhythms. Julia promises an endless dream of summer with a sweetly-sung ‘la’ refrain that is instantly undercut by the blunt drawl of Angus’ voice, as listeners are invited to interrogate the relationship between the meaning and surface of the lyrics.

In ‘Oakwood’, slowly-paced drum beats and melancholic guitar riffs unite to create an authentic backdrop of lament. Whilst Julia’s breathiness governs the majority of the overall sequence, this track illuminates the allure of Angus’ voice as it weaves a universal tale of desperate yearning. ‘Chateau’ demarcates the moment in the album where Julia’s vocals begin to exude a seductive charm; the point where listeners become intoxicated by her beguiling voice, her alluring lyrics which cover the music in a soft layer of lyrical, silky sounds.

Introduced by a collation of attractive harp playing and frantic guitar riffs, ‘Chateau’ captures inevitable wrench that looms over young love. Julia’s detached vocals cement the song’s thematic core of grief, imbuing it with a painful despondence not dissimilar from the brilliant tragedy found in a Lana Del Rey track. An overwhelming pang of melancholy introduces ‘Sleep Alone’, an auditory narrative that skilfully captures the acute feeling of emotional detachment that ensues a break up.

‘Make It Out Alive’, conversely, releases listeners from the web of melancholy woven by previous tracks, and reintroduces the intense positivity that was promised by ‘Snow’. The punchy refrain ‘Everyone is gonna make it alive’, along with the softening of Julia’s vocals exhibited in the track save the album from sinking into an inescapable pit of pensive lyrics and excessively heart-rending musical content.

Julia and Angus’ impressive musical craftsmanship succeeds at reinforcing these aforementioned positive vibes even further in ‘Who Do You Think You Are’.

While the duo assert their fervent ability to interlace indie rock and classic pop throughout the album, the emphasis on sombre lyricism during the first handful of songs threatens to overshadow the overall auditory effect of the album. They make the right decision in choosing to return to a more broadly encompassing range of themes of styles during the latter half of the sequence.

Unique to all other tracks, ‘Nothing Else’ is an acoustic piece that wanders beautifully into a spectacular array of Julia’s whispering lyrics that illustrate the innocent excitement of newly found love.

In ‘My House Your House’, a display of astutely painful words is juxtaposed beautifully against a joyous melody, creating a displacement between form and content that closely resembles the painful indulgence of The Smiths.

Angus dominates ‘Bloodhound’ with his powerful soliloquy on the oppressive chaos of modern existence – an affliction that is relatable for all listeners, young and old, male and female. His vocalised narrative of social media interference haunts the track, as each verse encapsulates the paranoiac fears that technology induces in its users.

‘Baudelaire’ – in significant contrast – fuses slowly-paced drumming and gloomy piano chords to strike listeners with an overwhelming feeling of malaise and emotional blackness.

Snow is an exhibition of both the singular and collective talent of Angus and Julia Stone. The musical duo display not just their ability to perform music, but also their skills as poets, able to create and recreate evocative stories through an effective choice of words.

Their latest release puts its listeners into a sound-induced trance of the experiences of joy, hurt, fear and liberation that comprise modern existence.

Beth Andralojc

 

 

 

 

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