I believe it to be a great time for music, when talented folk rock bands like The Lumineers and Mumford and Sons can last on the iTunes top ten list. That being said, it’s also the perfect time for Angus Stone, one half of the brother/sister duo Angus and Julia Stone, to take a shot at a solo album.
26 year-old Angus and his sister Julia hail from Sydney, Australia, and have been releasing music as a folk duo since 2006. With two albums to their names and several EP’s, their band has scored hit singles for the tunes “Big Jet Plane” and “Just A Boy,” and won the ARIA Music Award (Australian Recording Industry Association) for their 2010 disc, Down The Way. A whole new legion of fans have been introduced to their music as well, since last year’s inclusion of the song “Love Will Take You,” off the Breaking Dawn Soundtrack.
Before their band, the two were both solo acts that supported each other in concert, so the duo made perfect sense. Angus’ latest record, Broken Brights, finds Angus and Julia taking some time apart to control their own directions musically, and Angus delving deeper into more folk, bluegrass, and classic rock. In Nettwerk Records’ press release for the album, Angus says of his solo career, ” It’s an opportunity to be more loose and have a bit more fun. Recording with Julia is cool, but we both have our hands on the wheel. This is an opportunity to grab the wheel and do some burn-outs.”
Broken Brights doesn’t begin as an album that is immediately accessible, but repeated listens peel back layers musically that make the investment pay off. Full of folksy bluegrass, roots rock, and influenced by the likes of Bob Dylan and the Rolling Stones, the disc starts off with “River Love” a simply-strummed ballad, where Stone is pondering his motivation for love. It’s a great introduction to what his solo career will sound like, and the perfect opener.
The title track then goes a little too far on the repetitive side, and it sounds like Stone is already switching his sound, and taking a page out of Bon Iver’s book. It doesn’t work (for me at least), but is righted almost immediately with “Bird on the Buffalo.” There are classic rock influences all over the place with fuzzy guitar hooks and it’s the first track with a good beat. You can check the video here.
There aren’t many missteps on the album at all. “Apprentice of the Rocket Man” tries way too hard to sound deep and Dylan-esque, but I might just not have the patience for it yet. “It Was Blue” gets dark and aggressive, with an eerie riff and echoed vocals, and almost feels counter to the sound that he’s built up on the rest of the disc.
“Wooden Chairs” is the first fully radio-friendly single, and I can see that being an excellent draw-in for fans to latch onto, as it will pull in the listener and enable them to connect with his style, before dragging in deeper. With whistles and a hand-clappy chorus, it appears happy, but is more of a love song for a love long past. “Blue Door” goes all Spaghetti Western, telling the story of a lowdown maneater of a woman, and by the time you hit the killer flute solo, you’ll swear you were spurring your horse along an Outback desert path.
“The Wolf and the Butler” is a musical high point on the disc, with varied instrumentation, soul-searching lyrics, and more of that contemporary folk/bluegrass sound. Sad brass and a bit of harmonica help tell a tale of regret and a father passing on his knowledge which was learned through hardship and trials. “Be What You Be” also feels like a refreshing bright spot, as an inspirational tune, cheerfully picked on guitar with a sweet drum backing.
Try This Track: “Wooden Chair”