Down the Way is the sophomore album from Australia’s brother and sister Angus and Julia Stone. Their debut, A Book Like This was an accomplished collection of delicate acoustic melodies with child-like innocence.
Down the Way has been a long time coming, during which time the band have travelled all over the world, and, inevitably grown up. The warning tremor of foreboding strings in album opener Hold On immediately suggests that this album has moved on from the sweetness and light of its predecessor. Employing a full band, with now permanent members on drums and bass, the sound is full and rich, with lyrics of someone who is starting to notice the darker aspects of life.
Indeed, the idea of the beauty that can be found in darkness is very much a theme for the album. If A Book Like This told the tale of the first flushes of romance, then Down The Way is what happens when, after years down the line, it all falls apart.
Not your average brother/sister combo, the Stones write independently from each other, taking it in turns to take lead vocals. Angus’s ‘Big Jet Plane’ showcases his heart-on-the-sleeve lyrics, clearly influenced by spending so much time on the road. In the early days Angus was so crippled by shyness he was practically unable to look out into the crowd at gigs, but it would seem his writing has allowed him to come into his own, with his robust, honest songs.
‘Santa Monica Dream’ is again a direct response to the time the band have spent in the US, using it as a metaphor for giving up on dreams. Backed by simple picked acoustic, this track showcases the wonderful way in which the Stones’ voices blend together, matching and complementing each other on pitch and tone. With Julia’s child-like, sing-song style, listening to this track almost transports you back to their family home and the early beginnings of the band.
Down the Way is a little corner of rustic, charming, unpretentious enjoyment. Like that coffee shop or park bench that you’d like to think no one else knows about, put there simply for you to appreciate. Angus and Julia Stone have seen a lot and done a lot, but ultimately stick to what they know, laying it bare in their uncompromised, sincere songwriting and honed musicianship.