Angus Stone is known for having taken a ride on a big jet plane with his sister Julia and scoring a bunch of ARIAs. But in 2012 he is embarking on a different journey, having released his second record or first solo album “proper” (because his debut was released as Lady Of The Sunshine back in 2009). On Broken Brights we sees things go off-road, freewheeling down the highway. And while some of the signposts may be familiar – at least for this free-spirit – there are also some more twists and turns on offer here.
Stone has said that this experience of going it alone was a lot like grabbing the “wheel,” doing burnouts and having a bit more fun. The whole affair is a loose one, produced by Stone in places as diverse as the Swiss Alps, the Australian coast and a log cabin in India. The major thread holding this varied yet cohesive set all together is the fact they’re well-written songs and production-wise they were captured on tape and often done in a single take.
The album begins with “River Love” and already you can see that this is going to be much more than just another album by a guy with a guitar. This number comes with mandolin and an open calmness like a light summer’s breeze. It is some sweet and delicate folk reminiscent of Bob Dylan that veers off towards the end to include some traditional-sounding violins, as though Stone was going for a sojourn to Ireland to visit some of the Chieftains’ territory.
Then it’s time for the perfect coupling of melody and nostalgia in the title track. This is indie folk that’s reminiscent of a rather wistful Elliott Smith, as fragile as a whisper and one guaranteed to make eyes swell. On “Bird on the Buffalo” this folk music is beefed up with lively and distorted guitars reminiscent of Neil Young with Crazy Horse.
The name “Wooden Chair” should seem familiar to Angus & Julia Stone fans both in name and sound. That’s because this was inspired by the melody of the pair’s song of the same name and this revisit plays out like an ode to the honeymoon period of a relationship. The following, “The Blue Door” has a lovely country/blues twang before it nods at The Shadows and then goes off skipping across a vast, green field with little more than a magical silver flute.
For all the gold found at the beginning of this record, it is rather unfortunate that the middle part is a tad forgettable. We get some cutesy folk (“The Wolf & The Butler”), a Josh Pyke-esque slice of pop folk (“Monsters”) and Mr. Young is called to mind again on “Only a Woman”. But things do pick up with “Be What You Be” thanks to its Jack Johnson-like serenade by a calm ocean; there’s also the broody storm in your head, “It Was Blue”; and some laid-back, cloudy guitar murk synonymous with the Brian Jonestown Massacre in “End of the World”. My advice is look to the two book-ends of “Broken Brights” because that’s where the best combination of rock, folk and pop with lush strings and dusty distortion is found.
Broken Brights is an intimate and beguiling affair by one gifted songwriter who loses none of his charm and appeal by going it alone. It is a bittersweet offering, one full of rustic goodness that is mature, gentle and intimate. When I imagine this album, I can’t help but picture a beautiful flower thriving in a sea of concrete, a sweet juxtaposition of nature and modernity or a shimmering and fragrant beauty defiant in a land of man-made greyness. So while this ride is ultimately different to the duo’s typical work, Broken Brights is still one grade A Angus.
Originally published on 5 July 2012 at the following website: http://www.thedwarf.com.au/nd/albumreviews/broken_brights_angus_stone
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