[Album Review] Austra- Olympia
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by Tiana Feng
olympia

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Release Date: June 18th, 2013
Label: Paperbag Records

I wasn’t completely sold on Austra’s 2011, Feel It Break. It was somewhat one dimensional and I could never make it through the entire thing in one sitting. However, Olympia noticeably breaks free from that. It employs analog gear and live instruments along with Katie Stelmanis’ goosebump coaxing voice.

Ultimately, Olympia is a dance album full of accessible pop hooks. However, there’s an underlying sense of sadness and vulnerability throughout in Stelmanis’ vocals. Tasseomancy’s Sari Lightman plays a co-writing role this time around. “Painful Like” is about being gay in a small town. The tune flaunts their ability to make the group’s backing vocals sound like icy stabs.

Faster rhythms constantly juxtapose Stelmanis’ vocals which deservingly take their sweet time. “Sleep”‘s fast synth lines are surrounded by wind chimes as she coos on top. Production wise the album is so well mixed that it never sounds like she is singing on top of a track. Olympia’s sounds are more exploratory than before. “Home” has a tribal feel and employs a generous amount of flutes.

Repetition remains a way the group adds drama and a touch of darkness. This is most represented in “Fire” with the lines “You are not willing” and “I waged, a war.” It also gives you a chance to figure out what is being said and often purposely not enunciated properly. In contrast, “I Don’t Care (I’m A Man)” is completely clear in a short tune that touches on what seems like domestic abuse.

My personal favourite tune is the second last track “Reconcile” which has a amalgamation of shimmering syths, horns, and hopeful lyrics about coming into terms again.  With Olympia, I am reconciling with loving Austra.