The spectre of middle of the road blandness is one which sadly looms over much of today’s music, especially in the genre of folk. Now, artists like Newsom, who exude originality and innovation from every avenue, aren’t too common. It’s precisely because they are so outlandish yet still brilliant that they are held in such high regard. There are some artists who push the benchmark to extremes, and those who are happy to lie safely within the boundaries. Sadly, Antipodean brother and sister duo Angus & Julia Stone fit into the latter category.
It’s not that 'A Book Like This' is a bad album, in fact it’s quite nice. But nice isn’t necessarily a good thing, in this case it’s a euphemism for uninspiring. Aptly enough, part of this album was recorded in the living room of a front man from a band who were very nice indeed; Travis. The remainder was recorded in the basement of the home of their mother, whose niceness is yet unknown.
Throughout 'A Book Like This', the better moments come from the throat of Julia, whose childlike voice is somewhat reminiscent of early Joanna Newsom and that other sibling-folk duo, CocoRosie. Angus’ voice just doesn’t carry enough clout. As the album opener 'The Beast' bounces along, it’s just begging for a more distinctive voice, something a little less neutral, not necessarily a Condon, but something infinitely more raw and rasping than Angus can provide.
The production, partly done by Fran Healy, is unerringly first-rate throughout, with some pleasantly twee glockenspiels appearing on 'Hollywood', where Julia offers an endearing vocal performance, despite some slightly cliché lyrical content. A harmonica solo is thrown in on Angus led 'Just A Boy', which is one of those old fashioned tales of love. The poignant 'Silver Coin' has a steam engine like drumbeat which keeps the track chugging along at a steady pace, but by the time the carefree 'Stranger' appears, you feel this album has only just left the station.
There are tracks on here which are much darker in mood, reminiscent in so many ways of Damien Rice’s 'O', none more so than the title track, where some dramatic acoustic work is backed by a prominently sombre string section. Penultimate track 'Another Day' has more than a hint of Beirut; from the waltzing piano to the slow, slurring brass, something which adds a much needed extra dimension to 'A Book Like This'.
'Horse and Cart', the album finale, is a four-and-a-half minute swagger towards the finish line, which sees an all too brief clarinet solo, as well as some bright and breezy group whistling and hand clapping on display. On the whole, 'A Book Like This' is not a bad effort from Angus & Julia Stone, but it takes far too long to get into gear. The opening four or five tracks are just too nondescript and innocuous to provoke much of a reaction. Thankfully, the album improves remarkably as it progresses, particularly when the mood changes for more melancholic. There’s enough promise in 'A Book Like This' for us to hope that Angus & Julia can fulfil their potential, and not be consigned to the endless scrap heap of folk-rock dullards.
[Review taken from Gigwise]iLiKETRAiNS: We Go Hunting (21.4.08 on Beggars Banquet)
Annoyingly titled post-rockers from
Guy Bannister’s vocal style does verge on the outrageous at times, but his dark tones are perfect for iLiKETRAiNS’ sinister and gloomy choruses.
The chorus itself falls into a black-hole of misery, where the lyrics “If the demons divide, the demons will conquer/if you give them an inch, they’ll take a mile” are sung so mournfully it’s scary.
'We Go Hunting' is simply begging to be extended with an extra verse or two, another interlude, an interminably long outro perhaps, but sadly none of these happen and it fades out at , much to my disappointment. That said, if you buy only one Salem Witch Trial themed single this year, this should be it.
[Review taken from Audioscribbler]
Essie Jain: We Made This Ourselves (31.3.2008 on Ba Da Bing)
[Review taken from Audioscribbler]