Jun 17, 2013 Issue #46 - June/July 2013 - Charli XCX
Olympia reportedly captures a more democratic Austra, with benevolent dictator Katie Stelmanis relinquishing some of her control and the road-weathered six-piece now writing as a band. Stelmanis' control over her voice, however, may still remain the group's most incisive weapon, turning on a dime from vulnerable, harmonic-laden quiver to crystalline laser-beam as it builds dark melodies and snakes effortlessly around song structures.
On first single "Home," Stelmanis' narrator stays up waiting for a lover to return, her voice swelling from wavering to doubled-up and certain—"You know that it hurts me when/You don't come home at night." The gut-wrenching confessional vibe then unexpectedly trickles off into some straight-up house (albeit manually executed house—a mountain of percussion from Maya Postepski). It speaks to the ultimate tone of this album—hopeful (and danceable) in spite of the band's more goth-y underpinnings. The crushing sorrow lasts just long enough to deliver some hooks and bring back the club beats.
"Forgive Me" is some perfect pop, with its skittering drumbeat, bass synth bursts, and Stelmanis' plea of "What do I have to do to make you forgive me" taking on the oft-visited troubled-relationship subject matter. "Sleep" boasts a playful synth pattern and Björkian vocal acrobatics before its chorus kicks in, an industrial stomp reminiscent of 2011's Feel It Break. "You Changed My Life" is another standout, built on a simple two-note piano part, Stelmanis practically exposing a vein, following up with a droning percussion outro to let the hurt sink in. The group continues to serve up the dark, arty goods but keeps 'em digestible, taking pages out of, say, Depeche Mode or Kate Bush's playbooks. While not as fully committed to outright, aloof oddity as contemps like The Knife, they know how to wear some black. (www.austramusic.com)
Author rating: 7/10
Average reader rating: 8/10