Angus & Julia Stone – Snow (2LP, 45 RPM, Ltd Ed, White)
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Following their Rick Rubin-produced eponymous album from 2014, Australian sibling duo Angus & Julia Stone return with a fourth studio LP that was self-produced and partly self-recorded. Its title, Snow, captures a certain quality of the album that sets it apart from prior releases; in addition to carrying the group's trademark mellow disposition, it has a subtle sheen that smooths the already slight rustic edges to their sound. Combined with simple choruses that are light on verbiage, and a persistent use of delay, the album takes on a sleepy demeanor that drifts by like a long drive, squinting against the glare of snow-covered plains. That said, it's not without a dose of texture. Drum samples, acoustic drums, glimmering keyboards, piano, guitar twang, and an effects mix of grit and echo evocative of the Edge all contribute to the nearly seven-minute "Who Do You Think You Are." It's also one of the more uptempo tracks, along with "Chateau," a floaty indie rock tune about a couple "trying just to figure it out." The sparer "Nothing Else" relies more on wistful vocal harmonies and affectionate lyrics over an acoustic-electric shimmer. On top of it all, Julia Stone's wispy delivery and Angus' more leathery grain provide a contrast of their own that's especially effective on songs like "My House Your House" and "Snow," where they exchange lines, in dialogue. Still, restraint and that sheen keep everything else in check, resulting in an album for admirers of album-length vibe over song.