Angus Stone – Broken Brights (Review)
Review by Jack Foley
AFTER six years of touring and recording as one half of Australia’s award-winning duo Angus & Julia Stone, Angus is embarking on a new journey and the results are nothing short of stunning.
Billed as his most personal work to date, Broken Brights – his latest solo offering – is also an album that demonstrates his versatility. It’s steeped in classic song-writing values, sound-checking without directly referencing the likes of the great American song-writers, from Petty to Dylan via Neil Young.
And the classic songs fly thick and fast, whether it’s the album opener River Love, which builds from its mandolin-backed tender intro into a full-blooded, vocally layered folk-country gem complete with lively fiddles, to the trippy, psychedelic finale, End of The World and its bleak, often desolate imagery.
In between, though, there’s plenty to savour. Title track Broken Brights is acoustic and hypnotic; Bird On The Buffalo rocky in a classic Tom Petty way and Wooden Chair mesmerising in a low-key, effortlessly brilliant manner that also manages to include an intoxicating background whistle. It’s breezy and romantic without really even trying to be.
The Blue Door, meanwhile, opens as a slick country-rocker complete with cowboy twangs and blood-soaked imagery before disarming completely with a flute-backed outro, while Apprentice of The Rocket Man takes an inter-planetary stroll around the universe to create a stripped back, bluesy alternative to some of David Bowie’s or even Elton John’s seminal hits.
And while a lot of the songs may cling to melancholy lyrics, there remains a beauty to even the most sombre moments too, with the dusky Only A Woman another beguiling example of the way in which Stone finds beauty in sorrow.
Further highlights come in the form of Monsters, which manages to mix some lovely banjo licks with some lush female harmonies, and the gritty, almost punk-rock of It Was Blue, which completely catches you off-guard and re-defines what you think you knew about Stone’s compositional style.
Be What You Be, meanwhile, has a lushness about its intricate guitar licks that’s utterly enchanting (and even vaguely optimistic), while Clouds Above has a mellowness about it that recalls classic Art Garfunkel complete with some intoxicating horn arrangements. It’s another of the album’s upbeat, even dreamy moments.
All told, this is a remarkable journey that easily rates among the albums of the year so far. For Stone, it’s a personal masterpiece that looks set to enjoy classic status.
Download picks: River Love, It Was Blue, Wooden Chair, The Blue Door, Bird On The Buffalo, Monsters, Be What You Be, Clouds Above