It is amazing what siblings can do when they come together to make music. No I'm not talking about the Jonas Brothers or Hanson (as good as "Mmm Bop" was). But think about bands like the Beach Boys, the Kinks and AC/DC. Or how about some more contemporary bands, like Kings of Leon and Radiohead? The fact is siblings (usually) make good music. Now we can add to that distinguished list a brother/sister duo from Sydney, Australia. They go by the name of Angus and Julia Stone.
Upon listening to their debut album, A Book Like This, the first thing you notice Angus and Julia's voices; the first two tracks on the album serving as introductions to each band member's unique vocals. On "Mango Tree" Angus provides the leads, which immediately put you at ease; his soft rasp setting the tone for the rest of the album. And on the very next track, "Wasted" we get to hear Julia, who sings a bit more unusually than her brother, but not any less sweet and innocent.
When it comes to the music itself A Book Like This has soft and pretty moments ideal for pulling at heart strings. As for instrumentation we get the best of both worlds. There are moments on the album where no more than one or two instruments can be heard, as well as moments full of lush orchestral arrangements. Either way, the music emits a great sense of emotionally. A perfect example is "Silver Coin"; a sad song about losing the one you love because you were too afraid to tell them how you feel. From the delicate piano to the sweeping strings, the feeling the song evokes borders on tragedy.
There is also a certain sense of innocence that pervades throughout the album. Sometimes it comes in the form of sadness and other times, like in the case of "Bella", in the form of happiness and optimism. "Bella", the only song on the album that has a colored page in the album's booklet, is correspondingly the most colorful song on the album. To go along with the green grass, sunshine and rainbow depicted in the booklet, Angus sings along to some uplifting acoustic guitar, "There goes the gal in the pretty skirt with the golden smile that made you feel new". Then his childish purity shines through as he sings, "Won't you come on home/ I built us a flying machine/ We'll go where you want/ We'll sail the seven seas". Lyrics like these just augment this perpetual, innocent feeling.
In the end, A Book Like This is a masterfully packaged album containing wonderfully crafted songs, no matter who is on the mic. But the fact that both Angus and Julia sing on the album, and that they both bring different things to the table, elevate this album to a level that may not have been possible as just a solo record. It is the combination of talents from these two siblings that make A Book Like This a great debut album. -Greg Lozoff