Although she may have shed a stone, Julia has lost no weight with her latest release. Deciding to take a brief time out from the Sydney sibling partnership and ditch young Angus for a solo album of her own, Julia Stone has proven she doesn't need to rely on her brothers influence or input. 'Julia Stone In The Memory Machine' is a stunning individual debut from the Antipodean songstress, and, her second great album this year, following on from the duos highly acclaimed 'Down The Way'.
Memory Machine, if you judge a book by its cover, or CD by its sleeve, should be about 50's shock/mock horror, all pulp fiction novellas where there is evil lurking in every shadow, where screams of shrill panic penetrate the smog filled air and dames and broads tough it out in a world of spivs looking to get made. Thankfully, or disappointingly for some, it is not.........."I think I was in a really dark space when I wrote it so it's a little evil record. It's not angry, just spooky."
The railroad rhythm and gently brushed snare drum of 'This Love' opens up the album with a tenderness distilled from naivety and vulnerability. Julia's soft child like voice sits above the delicate instrumentation as she layers her harmonies to sweep and swirl around the track. What follows is pure delight. The delicacy and beauty, of the subtly stringed 'My Baby', are beyond compare, certainly this year. The tale of unconditional love is tragic, tortuous and sorrowful but perfectly captured, mesmerisingly performed and captivatingly emotive.
More sombre still is 'Winter On The Weekend', a story about Scrabble, tea and personal violation. The deep bass and occasional use of a sad horn passage help build the disturbing picture of unheard pleas for help. With a feel akin to a Leonard Cohen composition, the title track 'The Memory Machine', takes us on a more dream like journey into a world of whimsy and wonder. The acoustic guitar, soft vocal and delicately bound song floats from beginning to end. The most up beat of the ten tracks is the alt-pop 'Catastrophe'. A shuffling drum beat skips to some perky horns as Julia shows her lighter side to great effect......."I know that you're just a wager for me to put my best pair of shoes on."
'Maybe', (Think Laura Marling meets Stina Nordenstam) is another of the albums highlights. Menacing strings and the her doom laden bass work perfectly against her tiny scared voice. There on in, from 'Lights Inside This Dream' to the closer 'Where Does This Love Go', Julia doesn't veer far from the albums formula, and nor would you wish her too. Each track is crafted with a touching fragility that can't help but draw you in. You want to share the pain, the torment, the love, the anguish. 'What's Wrong With Me,' she says as if every relationship failure was her fault, "I keep on letting you down". Musically, lyrically and emotively this is as far removed from the truth as you could wish for.
Julia Stone In The Memory Machine was written in a brief period when she found some time on her hands in New York. That she's managed to record, co-produce and release her album during a year of extensive touring and promotion is a wonder in itself, that it's this good is more amazing still. Let us all hope she gets another spell of down time someday very soon!