It feels like Julia Stone has spent a decade waiting for her moment. Her self-named duo with brother Angus peaked in popularity in 2010 on the languid folk of their hit "Big Jet Plane". Julia broke away alone the same year, dropping her first solo album The Memory Machine and following it two years later on By The Horns. But eight years of no solo material have passed since, with two middling Angus and Julia Stone albums in between. Julia's forthcoming album Sixty Summers is a concerted relaunch on an international scale – production by St Vincent and Thomas Bartlett, music videos lead by Hollywood legends Danny Glover and Susan Sarandon, and now a feature from The National's Matt Berninger on the latest single "We All Have".
Stone reaches back to the low tempo of her music with Angus for the new track, predicated on a simmering piano and string line that never boils out of the pan. Her twee-crooner voice manages to create an interesting balance between its innocent tone and the broad wisdom of the lyrics. Stone explained it in a press statement as being about the transformative possibility of time – provided love is in your heart.
"Everything transforms and moves; even though you feel so shitty at one point, it might shift into something new. Love is all that we really need to be here for —not love with someone else but love in your heart."
It's too vague to be a transformative revelation for the listener – "Every moment will pass in a moment" sounds like nothingburger advice from a bad friend – but the track's gorgeous frame makes it palatable, even comforting. Stone curls the plain words into raspy, soaring pop sugar, doubling her own voice in the chorus. Berninger jumps in at the bridge to plumb the depths of his baritone without contradicting the track's simplicity: "Love is all we needed to be here for," his only solo sung contribution. When Berninger sings together with Stone, it's a harmonic revelation that makes the entire thing worth it – taking to the tune like oil to bread.
It's clear here "We All Have" and Stone's greatest strength is still her melodic sensibility, and much-imitated-never-replicated voice. If Sixty Summers can bottle that and dare to be bigger lyrically, it could be her best yet.
Written by Josh Martin, a Melbourne-based freelance music and media writer with words in MTV Australia, NME, Junkee, Crikey, etc. Follow him on Twitter @joshmartjourn.
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