Wednesday, 15 March 2017

Austra "Olympia" (2013)


Following up on the Canadian trio's darker leaning debut "Feel It Break", we arrive two years later at "Olympia", a measured refinement of style that steers the ship to a slightly brighter, broader appeal, while still retaining the core of their identity. Its a fitting follow up, no leaps, tricks or wild cards in store, just another collection of short songs where the synths lighten up in tone and dazzle with chirpier, friendly melodies.

Even though the instrumentals are rich with layers of complimenting melodies and a memorable tunes, it is singer Stelmanis who once again becomes the focal point of the emotional narrative, crowning the songs with her infectious hooks that hit with magnitude as a sublime energy and character resonates through her empowering vibrato. She carries on where the last record left off and bar a few sharper ideas its a predictable performance, one that's unsurprisingly indulgent as the melodies flow around her swooning vocal lines.

The biggest progression felt is the instrumentals, tuned for a brighter ear the record feels a little looser and organic in reflection of "Feel It Break". The drums especially, including bongo arrangements and less electronic kits. With a lighter pallet of sounds the band often resonate short Neoclassical melodies over pulsating dance baselines. Soft strings, flutes and plucked strings illuminate these cohesive moments of indifferent styles that otherwise sound odd on paper. Its very much a more obvious extension of what came before it.

"Olympia" is a strong record, however the bands approach to songwriting limits what feels like an obvious potential for them to do much grander music. Short, verse, chorus song structures and a lack of theatrical progression leave the songs contained within the walls of repetition that doesn't expand on the magic of Stelmanis' voice. The last album had a stand out track "The Beast" where convention gave way to inspiration and that is what I was hoping for more of. Even where potential feels disappointing this record is fantastic and very enjoyable, one I'll return to often.

Favorite Tracks: Painful Likes, Home, Reconcile
Rating; 7/10

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