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Angus And Julia Stone - A Book Like This

Angus & Julia Stone, A Book Like This

Review by Jack Foley

IndieLondon Rating: 4 out of 5

HAVING captured our attention with beautiful mini-album Heart Full Of Wine, Australian brother and sister duo Angus and Julia Stone now grab it completely with their magnificent full-length debut, A Book Like This.

Recorded at sessions in the London living room of Travis frontman Fran Healy and in the basement of their mother’s home in Newport, Australia, simplicity and homespun warmth is key to the album’s enchanting success.

Whether swapping vocal duties, or teaming up for some nice boy-girl trade-offs, the siblings provide an enigmatic presence throughout the album, while their instrumentation is laidback, folksy and really rather lovely. Lyrically, they marry moments of fantasy with hard-hitting social commentary, or intense vulnerability.

But if you get your musical kicks from the likes of The Magic Numbers or Simon & Garfunkel, then you’re certain to be an admirer. Album opener Beast sets things rolling in suitably impressive fashion, Angus’s haunted, vaguely ethereal vocals providing a wonderful accompaniment to the lush acoustic strums, and lively percussion that forms the backdrop. The chorus, especially, is great – as is the electric guitar solo late on.

Here We Go Again, meanwhile, unfolds amid a brilliant and vaguely flamenco guitar strum that continues to wind itself around Julia’s husky vocals. It’s a shimmering song that confronts the fear of old age, whilst retaining an optimistic edge.

Wasted is a fantastic duet of sorts (Angus very much taking a back seat until the chorus), while Just A Boy is an upbeat combo of folksy guitars, piano chords and bracing harmonica that reflects on the innocence of a young boy’s love-struck observations (“you took me in and gave me something to believe in, that big old smile is all your wore”).

Indeed, it’s a feature of the album that some fantastic melodies are married to inventive lyricism – some of which could be described as pretentious, but most of which gets by on the warmth and beauty of its overall composition.

Bella, for instance, is another lovely ode to romance that wouldn’t sound out of place on the soundtrack to films like Juno, or a TV show like Grey’s Anatomy, opening with the lovely lyric: “There goes the gal in the pretty skirt, with the golden smile that made you feel new, like when the marching band strolls the street”.

In stark contrast, meanwhile, comes Hollywood, which lambasts the hopeful romanticism of Hollywood, as Julia laments “I blame you Hollywood for showing me things you never should show a young girl in this cruel world, cos life’s not a happy ending”. But there’s a tricksy playfulness surrounding lyrics such as “Pinocchio could never tell the truth” and “Cinderella would of scrubbed those floors until her hands grew old and tired and nobody would look her way”.

Further highlights come in the form of the harmonica-laden Stranger, which shuffles along in glowing fashion and is delivered in supremely husky fashion by Angus, as well as the tender Silver Coin, with its melancholy pianos and violins.

Another Day, meanwhile, is an upbeat performer that eventually trades its breezy piano chords for an elaborate children’s chorus (which brings things to a close), and final track Horse And Cart rounds things off in similarly charming style, its lazy, folksy qualities soothing you into a laidback state of mind (complete with some nice whistling).

A Book Like This therefore offers listeners a wonderful opening chapter in the Angus And Julia Stone story that makes for utterly compelling listening. It’s a highly recommended debut offering that keeps giving you more with each listen.

Download picks: Hollywood, The Beast, Bella, Soldier, Another Day, Horse And Cart, Silver Coin, Stranger, Just A Boy

Track listing:

  1. The Beast
  2. Here We Go Again
  3. Wasted
  4. Just A Boy
  5. Bella
  6. Hollywood
  7. A Book Like This
  8. Silver Coin
  9. Stranger
  10. Soldier
  11. Jewels And Gold
  12. Another Day
  13. Horse And Cart