Full of ambition + fire
Harrison Smith
12:43 20th April 2021

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Sixty Summers sees Australian artist Julia Stone gleefully encapsulate the joyous elements of freedom and fun that had at times eluded her previous, slightly darker releases. Always an eccentric crafter of melody and verse, Stone returns after an eight-year absence full of ambition and fire - though not always consistent. 

Recent single ‘Fire In Me’ ticks all the boxes; loaded with an upbeat groove and a glam-rock stomp, Stone wanders through a meadow of kooky strings and a smattering of breathy vocals resembling a musically-radical Marilyn Monroe.

Of ‘Fire In Me’, Stone has said: “for me, it was about creating a feeling of pure energy,” and this fervent desire to create an animated sound is truly present throughout. Album opener ‘Break’ kicks things off in an avant-funk Talking Heads-meets-reggae like fashion, where Stone passionately regales romantic experiences of the past ("standing in your room and I keep on feeling I might drown") in a talky and cheerful manner. The title track plunges into a pool of lyrical reflection fixating on the summers of days gone by ("looking for the brightest star / in the back of your car / we didn’t even know we were happy") and the somewhat simple and dewy-eyed ‘Unreal’ sees Stone yearning for adoration.

Nevertheless, the immediacy of her enthusiasm to explore modern-pop territory here is as pleasant a listen as it is innovative and cements her ardent desire to lift the listener’s spirits as much as her own. On ‘Dance’, avoiding confrontation of an oncoming relationship break-up, Stone distracts herself with carefree reminiscence and rhythmic bodily movements. ‘Easy’ sees Stone tackling personal dilemmas, second guessing herself and doubting her worth romantically, an experience that many will resonate with.

A collaborative effort, the recording of Sixty Summers saw Stone work closely with various producers - Dane Humme, Thomas Bartlett and the always adventurous St. Vincent - the latter two being the driving force behind Stone’s pop realisation and subsequent departure from folk and indie-rock.

A bold step therefore is Sixty Summers. At times the stripped-back acoustic simplicity that steered Stone's previous releases gets a little lost in the mix and certain lyrical ideas sit a touch on the nose, but her eagerness to embrace a more elated sound is wholly admirable and, thankfully (perhaps down to the advice from her previously mentioned producers), her signature quirky and honest traits are on full display - albeit now draped in bright technicolour. 

Sixty Summers arrives 23 April.

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Photo: Press