Listening to Down The Way, it’s difficult to escape the feeling that Angus & Julia Stone have run out of ideas. Their music has always been characterised by its simplicity, but whereas in the past this was delivered with a certain degree of sophistication, their latest album sees them falling back on repetition and cliché to plug the gaps where creativity once lay.
The album’s failings are apparent right from the outset - opener 'Hold On' is an almost featureless cycle of the chorus line, "Hold on / What do you take me for?" After what seems like the umpteenth time, you could easily find yourself echoing the question.
The stronger songs tend to be those when Angus takes over on lead vocal duties, as on 'Black Crow', which offers some respite from his sister’s wilfully twee warbling. Her delivery is, for the most part, almost childlike – a tremulous, over-enunciated half whisper that seems to be trying to convey an emotion that is in fact totally lacking. “If you love me / With all of your heart” she sings on For You, “If you love me / I’d make you a star in my universe”. Seriously.
Angus’ throaty vocal is certainly more engaging, but there’s still little behind it and he too has a habit of breathily over-pronouncing his lines. This is perhaps most spectacular on 'Yellow Brick Road', when “Shot me down with a revolver” actually comes out as “Shat me down”. The fact that this is even noteworthy speaks volumes about how entirely bereft of authenticity or originality most of ‘Down The Way’ is.
On 'Big Jet Plane', the family Stone seem to have been so taken with the concept behind the song, they simply repeat the line “Gonna take her for a ride on a big jet plan” twice by way of a chorus. Then they repeat the whole chorus. Five times.
The musical backdrop, meanwhile, sounds like something knocked together by an A-level music class in about ten minutes. The arrangements are light touch without conveying any sense of the alienation, tension or melancholy you’d expect, and the sibling’s trademark harmonies, while pleasant enough, merge into an indistinguishable miasma of beige witticisms and borrowed metaphors. One for die hard Dido fans perhaps.