Angus & Julia Stone

One of the best and most successful Australian acts of the past decade, brother–sister duo Angus and Julia Stone, return with their first album in over four years. Following their phenomenally successful first two albums, A Book Like This in 2007 and Down the Way in 2010, the two went their separate ways, breaking up just when global success seemed within reach. Solo projects were released, but these failed either to ignite the charts or excite the critics – it is no surprise, really, to see them back together, but the story of how this came about is worth telling. Legendary American producer Rick Rubin heard their music playing at a party and quickly decided he wanted to get in touch and work with them. When Rubin finally met up with Julia, she told him they were no longer playing music together – and, in fact, were barely in touch.

Angus and Julia are definitely stronger together. It’s surprising to learn that this album is the first on which the pair have written songs collaboratively, rather than trading songs like they had done for their two earlier albums. The effect is immediately apparent and adds a new dimension, an edge that was not perceptible earlier. Of course, working with one of the biggest producers in the world has helped craft their songs from fairly simple folk–pop to a grander and more expansive sound. Angus, in particular, lets loose on the guitar a few times, and comes across very much as a Neil Young devotee. The first single, ‘Heart Beats Slow’, is a great driving duet where the siblings’ – who’ve always shared vocal duties but rarely with the same upbeat – back-and-forth dynamic is really on display. The album is sure to please old fans while winning over a whole new generation.

Dave Clarke is a Music & DVD Specialist at Readings Carlton.