Julia Stone - Sixty Summers review: Long-awaited release exists on a whole new planet

<p>Julia Stone</p> (handout)

Julia Stone


The way Julia Stone’s current collaboration came about wouldn’t happen nowadays: it was a chance meeting in an airport. Stone, best known for the albums she made with her younger brother as Angus & Julia Stone, was passing through the terminal in Helsinki when she saw their old drummer, Matt Johnson, coming the other way. He was with his new employer, Annie Clark, otherwise known as Grammy-winning experimental rock artist St Vincent.

A friendship ensued between the Australian and the Texan, and here we are with Stone’s first solo album in almost nine years – a whizzy, technicolour St Vincent production that exists on a whole new planet from the autumnal indie folk she has made to date, both with Angus and alone.

The Stone siblings have been hitless in the UK but are a big deal in their homeland, where they cleaned up at the Australian Grammys, the ARIAs, in 2010, and made platinum sellers of their beautiful singles Big Jet Plane and Chateau as well as three of their four albums. Their self-titled third one was produced by studio legend Rick Rubin, who sought them out himself.

Their soft, organic music isn’t far from the understated stuff Taylor Swift has been making in lockdown. The key co-writer on Sixty Summers is Thomas Bartlett, who played keyboards on both Swift’s Folklore and Evermore albums. The brief presence here of Matt Berninger from The National, who also pops up on Evermore, would seem to cement the connection still further, but in fact this is the first time Stone has attempted something very different.

The opener, Break, is a startling indication that we’re not in Sydney any more. Carnival horns and swinging electronic beats are joined by Clark’s highly distinctive guitar stylings, while Stone’s generally thin vocals are layered en masse to create a sound with genuine punch. Elsewhere there are house drums and rumbling synths on Who, and a chorus that revels in the simple frothiness of pure pop on Dance. “Why don’t we dance?/There’s only one thing left to do/You’ve got that hold on me/I’ve got that hold on you,” she sings.

Stone’s bewitching, unusual voice – like a wispier Stevie Nicks – keeps things just about familiar for long-term fans, but otherwise everything has changed. Fifteen years since the first Angus & Julia Stone single, she must have been more than ready to try a new partnership. It sounds like she’s enjoying every minute.


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