By the Horns is Julia Stone‘s follow-up to February’s EP Let’s Forget All the Things That We Say and earlier debut solo effort The Memory Machine from 2010. Produced by Thomas Bartlett and Patrick Dillett (Antony & the Johnsons, David Byrne) it was supposedly inspired by The National’s High Violet; apparent in her compelling and stripped-down take on ‘Bloodbuzz Ohio’, which appears early on, as the second track on the recording.With honeydewed and curious vocal, now without brother Angus and absent from their eponymous folk outfit, Stone ponders the usual loves, losses and heartbreak with a yearning characterised by her childlike vocal so reminiscent of Joanna Newsom. For the most part it’s an unabashedly pessimistic record, its lonesomeness perfectly translated, in ‘I’m Here, I’m Not Here’, by the coy cries of its opening lyrics “Living in this room but I don’t really want to”, accompanied by minimal piano and ambient bleeps which only serve to accentuate this solitude. You’d be mistaken for believing this keening call is running to the end of its course however, as the timidity of much of the record pales in the light of the aggressive and impassioned vocals of the title track’s depiction of an adulterous lover, as she almost snarls with contempt at her mistreatment.
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