Sometimes, the best artists are blissfully unaware of what makes them truly memorable. With their latest album Snow, Angus and Julia Stone fall squarely in line with this idea. Though the Aussie sibling duo has had a lucrative past in creating ethereal, warm, and in some cases moving tracks, too much artistic digression in Snow leaves listeners feeling more uninterested than entranced.
The album opens with the title track “Snow.” From Julia’s mousy opening la la la’s, listeners familiar with the duo could expect this to be another typic dreamy love song. These keen listeners would be correct and, for fans of the duo, this is a good thing. The Stone’s have carved out an ample space in the heady chill-out market and songs like “Snow” further their claim. It is not overly complex musically, especially with the use of the drum machine and droning guitar riffs. But it is this droning on that entices listeners into that even-keeled place. Lyrically, the song is little more than love poem soup, with a few line requiring a little more analysis, “Who the hell are we to start this chain again? / Who the hell are we to break this chain again?.” Individually, these things do not make the song memorable and fun. The key ingredient is the dynamic between the Stones. Unfortunately, after the song “Snow”, the album has to fight to reclaim that interplay.
“Oakwood” and “Chateau” are far more upbeat and bright than “Snow” with jaunty baselines and guitar sections. This offers some contrast with the rest of the album, but feels like a rather abrupt departure from the mellow opening. More importantly, it marks a departure from some of the more compelling back-and-forth vocals. Long stretches, in these two songs, are dominated by either sibling only to change or intersplice the other halfway through. Again for contrast’s sake, these are not unworthy inclusions, but the finesse of the duo’s talent is lost on a more or less routine indie pop track.
But then the album gives listeners a taste of the interplay they know and love from the sibling rockers. In “Sleep Alone” the pair takes up a call and response format in a sweetly dark piece. The guitar groove undulates to the pairs swapping vocal spotlight, flowing seamlessly in between and over each line.
And then it’s over. The brief interlude gives way to Angus’s strange spoken word track “Make It Out Alive.” Not only is this transition disappointing, it is not the only time this album.
“Nothing Else,” arguably the best track on the album is simply beautiful. Instrumentally, the song consists of a simple acoustic strumming with the beat of kept on the dampened strings. The song feels like a dirty desert town at sunset—and you’re about to stay for a night. As Julia sings the main verses of the song, Angus interjects at various point to add unison or periphery vocals to the already enticing lyrics. In contrast to the rather pedestrian love lyrics, this song seems acutely inspired as its opening lines can attest:
“You don’t wanna be rich like everybody else does / You just wanna grow old, sit still while everybody else runs / In the meantime, tell me your star sign / I’ll make something up about how you have to fall apart to really be someone.”
Again the album runs into a problem of progression. “Nothing Else” ends and the energy sputters out in the face of the next track “My House Your House.” Though this next track is a perfectly ample track of unison singing, it abuts oddly with the more dirty acoustic sound of “Nothing Else.” Though these tracks are of comparable length, the slow burning songs are often followed by songs with a heightened sense of urgency. Ultimately, this leaves the album, which is a rollercoaster of tone, without any mild gradient of tone and emotion.
Snow has many entries that will fit in nicely with the Stone’s ample repertoire, but as a unified piece, it leaves much to be desired of. Hopefully, future installments from the siblings will see an emphasis put on their strong dynamic and roots in more mellow melodies.
Featured Image By Nettwerk Records