Angus & Julia Stone – Down the Way

Release Date 15/03/2010 (Nettwerk Records)

By Chris Gilliver

Down the WayMusic has the incredible, and sometimes regrettable, power to take you to another time and place. A memory will fly at you from far out of leftfield, and you’ll have to pause for the rush of emotion. For instance, Supergrass’ “Alright” takes me back to one of my many family holidays in Wales; the Pixies track “Gouge Away” reminds me of smoking grass with a friend, now sadly gone, and the raptures inspired by the genius of Santiago’s guitar licks and Black’s roaring; “Just A Boy” by Angus and Julia Stone brings me to a brief but intense relationship I had with a girl a few years ago that marked a strange turning point in my life. Long may music help me remember these moments!

In the last case I was enthralled by the strange innocence of Angus’ voice and lyrics. The song carried sentiments that matched my own troubles, that of the final loss of childhood naivety. It’s a brilliant song, a pretty soft, acoustic masterpiece that carries an edge so fine and sharp that you could almost miss it. The problem with the album as a whole from which it originates, “A Book Like This”, is that Julia’s song were vastly weaker than her brother’s. Her songs are clumsy, truism-heavy, the weak links in what would have been an otherwise very impressive solo album. “Along The Way” redresses this imbalance completely and immediately.

With “Hold On”, the album opener, Julia asserts herself as Angus’ equal. The acoustic backdrop remains, but orchestral scores make the track (and album) a grander event than we’re used to. Angus’s answer “Black Crow” is set on a similar tone and pitch to “Hold On”, his vocals floating blackly over a simple two chord riff. Together they announce that Angus and Julia have become older, wiser, more cynical and far more serious. This feeling permeates the album as a whole, which is resolutely downbeat and negative. The absence of major chords is a bit much, making Along the Way a bit too monotone. All of which would be a far larger problem if that one tone was not so well painted, and if Julia was not pulling her weight. But she is, and that tone is so captivatingly melancholic that surely this album will be the soundtrack to an epiphany for lots of other people, as Just A Boy was for me.

Elsewhere, single “And The Boys” lifts the mood just a fraction, for “Draw Your Swords” to slash its head clean off. This, the album’s spiritual low point, is also the musical highpoint. When Angus sings, “Come on love, draw your swords, shoot me to the ground” it seems like the perfect realist answer to the naïve, hopeful, starry-eyed childishness of “A Book Like This’”. Where hope is gone, and desperation remains

Long may music be this good, and long may it have this power to reclaim lost memories that are important. Both should be held onto so tightly.

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