There’s a real Dylan vibe to Dope Lemon, the new Angus Stone project, which has just offered up its debut album, Honey Bones. Like Bob Dylan many years before him, Stone has sidelined the acoustic folk/roots material and gone (somewhat) electric. But that’s not the end of the similarities: there’s something Dylanesque about Stone’s laconic, sometimes meandering vocal delivery style, and also in the unadorned sketches of his songwriting.
When expressed through the characteristically laidback guise that listeners would be familiar with from his work with sister, Julia, Dope Lemon makes for sweet slacker rock in the slightly off kilter vein of Mac Demarco. The whole thing is charmingly loose around the edges, while showcasing Stone’s strong songwriting skills.
Honey Bones opens with ‘Marinade’, its casual vocal phrasing and gentle electric guitar setting the tone for the album, before the suitably chosen lead single ‘Uptown Folk’ draws us in with its gorgeous guitar hook; one of the strongest tracks on the album.
In ‘Fuck Things Up’ there is the familiar sound of Stone’s acoustic guitar, but here it plays over a non-intrusive electronic beat, distinguishing it from his earlier work with Julia.
This development is indicative of how the album progresses, with Stone widening his musical canvas in the second half of the record: diverse instrumentation and subtly layered arrangements becoming more of a feature.
‘How Many Times’ is a good example of this: a nuanced, nicely shaded piece over a searching beat and with Stone pushing his voice into some well worked falsetto.
In ‘Stonecutters’ gangly guitars interplay with banjo, while in the title track there are the sounds of sitar and finger percussion, providing a trancy, world music feel.
‘The Way You Do’ is a gem of a song with an engaging groove; here it sounds like Stone is really pushing himself, both in arrangement and performance.
Closing track ‘Best Girl’ is the only thing that doesn’t really work on the album; the longest track is a ponderous number over some wonky acoustic guitar. The album probably deserved a more decisive ending.
With Dope Lemon, Angus Stone shows himself to be an artist with a desire to push into new directions; a very satisfying listen.
Honey Bones is released on Friday 10th June from EMI Australia.
Reviewed by Matthew Trainor