Lady of the Sunshine - Smoking Gun
Angus Stone has left his sister Julia behind, for this, his first solo album, that aims to reveal the side of Angus only seen when he stubs or toe or can't find his keys. For, yes, this is darker, more contemplative and brooding than his day-to-day fair, as his press release proclaims in the opening paragraph. Who can argue with such thoughts when the man can make 'Jack be nimble' sound more sinister than Omar Little telling you your last rites with a shotgun in your face?
It may be darker, but is it any more worthwhile than his usual breezy, elegant pop? Silver Revolver is the slow-burner to start, building on a simple strum as the percussion kicks, and Stone's voice remains an eerie wisp. It's enjoyable too, and sets a tone that remains until the dirty blues of White Rose Parade that so nearly becomes Queens of the Stone Age. This attitude returns on King's Black Magic, where some essence of Jack White is distilled, though to less extravagant effect.
Most of Smoking Gun stays amidst the dark side of folk, conjuring up the beauty of Tom McRae on Big Jet Plane, and entering Crowded House sweet sentimentals on Daisychain.
Stone is a fine songwriter, and a fine musician, but without his sister to compliment his subtle singing style, the vocals fail to resonate. A great singer-songwriter needs the emotion of Neil Young, the rawness of Tom Waits or the point of Billy Bragg. It's Stone's one failing, but it's an important one.