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KTW vs ETC: Angus & Julia Stone – Just A Boy EP


A versus by Ernessa T. Carter and Kyle T. Wilson

Okay, they’ve popular enough abroad, but can Australian brother-sister act Angus and Julia Stone win over our American indie hearts? Time to find out.

First, the EP:

Then ETC’s Take:

So Kyle claimed to be too tuckered out by his sister and nephew visiting last weekend to pick this week’s KTW vs. ETC track on Tuesday. I’d like to meet this nephew. He sounds like a handful, or maybe he’s just a kid, and we’ve grown unused to that particular breed of person here in L.A.

But the main point is that I chose the Just a Boy EP from Angus and Julia Stone, because it seemed exactly like the kind of plaintive mumbly indie that Kyle would like.

I’m actually not a fan of their title track as it’s a little too coffeehouse and — deadly sin alert — it employs a harmonica. But the EP gets rather lovely after that. “Little Bird” makes me feel like it’s Sunday, even though it’s Thursday. Brother and sister switch off on lead vocals for “All of Me,” with Julia declaring her undying love, and in a nice little twist, her tone is rather sad and heartbreaking. Then boo! — the harmonica comes back for “Stranger,” but other than that, it’s a perfectly enjoyable song. “Another Day” feels like it belongs on an entirely different album with it’s jaunty circus piano, but I think it’s one of the best tracks on the EP. And “What You Wanted” is lyrically impressive, if a little musically boring.

All in all, I don’t think that they’ll make a huge splash in The States indie scene. But they have a ton of potential, and I will seek them out in the future to see what else they come up with.

Then KTW’s take after the jump:

Maybe I’m just cranky because I’m so tuckered out (and yes, my nephew is a handful, albeit a delightful one), but I have to take issue with some of your assertions, ETC.  First of all, I don’t know what about my musical tastes suggests I’m interested in “plaintive mumbly indie.”  In fact, those are typically the kinds of acts I check out because of internet buzz and end up bored to tears by.  Secondly, I have no idea what you have against the harmonica.  I mean, would you repeat those words to Dylan?  Honestly.

That said, the coffeehouse remark seems pretty on-the-nose.  I’m actually getting a touch of a Beth Orton-sans-adenoids vibe from some of the vocals; I’m surprised to realize that it’s more from Angus than Julia.  Regardless, that’s a sign you got the “plaintive mumbly indie” pretty well pegged.  I have to say I prefer Julia to Angus, particularly on “All of Me,” which is about as spare a ballad as I’ve heard lately — pretty haunting stuff there.  “Stranger” is cheerier; its bouncy opening and your hated harmonica made me think they’d be a good follow-up to Feist’s Sesame Street appearance.

Oh, and I love piano-driven, waltzy pop songs, so I’m in agreement with you about “Another Day,” even if Julia seems to be aping Bjork’s vocals.  Or Regina Spektor aping Bjork.  I’ll forgive her because of the choral surge on the final round of the chorus.  Or at least multi-tracking.  That’s all very nice.  Also, Julia’s cries of “I know what you wanted!” toward the end of the song with (almost) the same name are a striking climactic refrain for the EP.  Still, I keep wanting to return to “All of Me.”  It feels like the duo’s fragile core.  The most distinctive, the most genuine, the most richly emotional.

Okay, so maybe I do like plaintive and mumbly.  But I will NEVER capitulate in my affinity for the harmonica to you, Ernessa T. Carter.  Do you hear me???

I hear you, Kyle. Here’s the video for “Just a Boy,” which we both were only enh about — though Angus is such a spunk (that’s Australian for “attractive person”), that I nearly changed my mind about not really liking the song. See what I mean below: