AUSTRA play the Phoenix on September 27. See listing. Rating: NNN
Austra's 2011 debut, Feel It Break, created a distinct, arresting aesthetic: Katie Stelmanis's classically trained vocals were the perfect counterpoint to an icy electronic throb. With the band's sound now fully established, the new record broadens the palette, finding new complexity within similar parameters.
Olympia is simultaneously more collaborative and more personal than its predecessor. The newly expanded six-piece all recorded the songs together as a full band, replacing the former sparse bombast with richer, more textured arrangements.
Where Stelmanis used to occasionally over-emote vocally, she now sings in a subtler register that blends with dense harmonies from Tasseomancy's Romy and Sari Lightman. Now the focus is less on her elastic tone and more on her lyrics, which directly address both personal heartbreak and her disillusionment as a gay teen in a small town. The more nuanced approach is less immediate but stands up better to repeated listens.
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