In her native Australia, Stone came to prominence by performing with her brother as the folk-pop duo Angus & Julia Stone. The pair have achieved massive success and acclaim. They have won several industry best-of awards and earned the best selling album by an Australian artist in 2010 with their second album, "Down the Way."
It's upon this backdrop that Julia has stepped out on her own. Her solo debut, "The Memory Machine," was released in 2010 to modest praise and attention, but it's her sophomore effort, "By the Horns," that stands to carry her name far beyond her native country. The record is a disarming expression of modern love and vulnerability that settles in comfortably beside the music of Emily Haines, Azure Ray and PJ Harvey.
"By the Horns" is a series of intimate dramas lamenting broken relationships and betrayal while craving resolution and fulfillment. The disillusionment in Stone's voice is stark; her words are small and sombre, distressed by broken ties and crumbled dreams. "Wrap me up in blankets then push me down the stairs / Leave me in the burning house then tell me how much you care," she pleads in "I'm Here, I'm Not There."
The fatality of such expressions is tempered by flashes of hope. Though just as weighty as those dark odes, songs like "Justine" and "It's All Okay" find a way out. "The story is different now, the records are playing in a different room ... It's all okay, cause love will find a way to be what love is." These are longings for a golden existence where honesty and fearlessly expressed emotion are panaceas. Through the fire, Stone's ideals remain.
This array of searing emotion, set atop plum-colored melodies that hover somewhere between pensive and anxious, are enough to make this album notable. But a well-chosen and perfectly executed cover -- of the National's "Bloodbuzz Ohio" -- as well as an amped-up (by Stone's standards, at least) synth-driven remix -- by Active Child -- are just as likely to bring this record to the ears of listeners. However they arrive, they'll stay for the gorgeous songs therein.
"By the Horns" will be released on the Nettwerk label on May 29, 2012.