Austra – Olympia

June 27, 2013 No comments
Written by Eva Cheung

★★★★☆

Having heard a few new songs during Austra’s CMW show at Danforth Music Hall in February, “excited” doesn’t even begin to express how much I was anticipating their new album. Austra’s sophomore album, Olympia, released almost a week ago, has already been named Itunes Canada’s #1 electronic album.

The band produces a different, but familiar sound. It isn’t quite as head-bopping as some songs on their previous album. The songs on Olympia seem to be more experimental, where the instruments ebb and flow. On Feel It Break, their previous album, songs were held up by a memorable synth riff and a strong bass line. There are a few hits on the record, such as “Painful Like,” “What We Done” and “Home,” which have a similar sound to older songs.

On Olympia, the instruments present themselves enough to make them just danceable, but not quite. Although the instruments take a more minimalist approach, Katie Stelmanis and her incredible classically-trained voice and wide range highlight the emotional lyrics.  It exposes a more personal and vulnerable side of Stelmanis.  In tracks such as “We Become,” it’s evident that the group has gone for a more democratic approach in the album’s production. More vocal contribution from the twins can be heard, which helps shape their overall eerie and penetrating sound.

The songs seem to follow a common pattern, where they begin very minimalistic and then slowly build up to a dark electronic climax. This arrangement really made the album cohesive and audibly well-crafted. The distinct and more developed sound clearly sets this band apart from their contemporaries and show that they do have the ability to grow and avoid the sophomore slump.

In all honesty, it took two listens for the album to finally grow on me. The songs may not be as catchy as those on their previous album, but the subtle musical craftsmanship and lyrics are without a doubt a huge leap forward and demonstrate that Austra can get out of the comfort zone of “dance-pop.”

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