Angus & Julia Stone, Angus & Julia Stone

Peter Blackstock

By Peter Blackstock

on 08.01.14 in Reviews

Angus & Julia Stone

Angus & Julia Stone

At the behest of producer Rick Rubin, Australian sibling duo Angus & Julia Stone reconvened for the first time in four years. After 2010′s Down This Way swept their home country’s ARIA Music Awards, they embarked on solo careers, but Rubin’s interest brought them back together to create this hour-long collection of folk-pop that feels sunny on the surface but takes some sharp turns down darker avenues. It’s hard not to hear echoes of Mazzy Star’s Hope Sandoval in Julia’s lonesome lilt, but the blend with her brother’s more plainspoken tone helps to give the Stones their own identity.

Rick Rubin protégés rise up from Australia with a folk-pop gem

Much of the record deals with matters of the heart, as emphasized by the driving lead track “Heartbreak” and the more contemplative lament “Heart Beats Slow.” They pick up the pace a bit on “Little Whiskey,” which pulses with urgency as Angus insists, “there’s still fire in your belly and your heart is still wild.” The set closes with its two longest songs, the brooding “Main Street” and “Crash and Burn,” which brings to mind classic Neil Young guitar-jam epics such as “Cortez the Killer” or “Cowgirl in the Sand.” If Angus & Julia Stone aren’t the type of groundbreakers Rubin has often brought to the fore in his illustrious career, their impassioned songwriting and charismatic singing result in an album that delivers on the promise he saw in them.