Clear Vinyl Limited Edition only 500 Copies, Gatefold
Only three years passed between the Stones’ debut and this follow-up record, but the siblings seem to have aged exponentially in the interim. While 2007’s A Book Like This found the two setting their own adolescence to a soundtrack of acoustic guitars and sparse percussion, Down the Way is a decidedly adult album, filled with textured arrangements and a wider array of influences. Angus and Julia handle their own production this time around, and the resulting songs jump from panoramic chamber pop — often with a rootsy, Americana edge — to bedroom folk songs, with both members trading off vocals and instrumental duties. Julia still sings in a soft, fairy tale voice, but her own songs are bolder than they once were, with tracks like “Hold On” taking much of their strength from the contrast between her gauzy, childlike croon and the nocturnal-sounding instruments that surround it. Even so, brother Angus gets the “most improved” award, having moved past the solo folk songs he favored on A Book Like This (although some of those show up here, too) in favor of lush, collaborative material. On “Draw Your Swords,” one of the album’s three tunes to stretch past six minutes, he rips into the final refrain with gusto, shouting the lyrics in a cracked baritone before adopting a Jeff Buckley-ish falsetto. Down the Way may be a bit long by 2010’s standards — there are 13 tracks here, none of which is particularly short — but the songs are solid throughout.