Austra - Olympia

26 June, 2013

By Katerina



Those of you who have been with us from the very first day of this site are well aware of the appreciation I feel for Austra. The  review for "Feel It Break", Austra's first album from 2011, was after all my first illattempt to publicly express in writing my thoughts about the music I love. So it seemed fair enough that I was the one to once again write a review for their second album "Olympia".

It should be noted before hand that I have the  out most respect for Stelmanis voice and I truly consider her one of the greatest talents of our time.

This band from Canada returns to prove that the first album was not yet another firework in this mass music production era. (Well truth be told, I have rarely seen bands under the wings of Domino Records being fireworks…) As in their first album, Stelmanis is the one calling the shots. She is the one who pens the songs, it's her voice we hear, she is the one with the final say in the production. The main difference from their  first album, besides that fact that this is an electro-pop album with melodies that make you wanna dance, is that the album was played live by the band in the studio. As stated by Stelmanis "all of the percussion including a wild set up of marimbas and congas was performed by Maya (drummer Maya Postepski.) Maya played a huge role in the production of the album." "There is a major percussive element running through every song," Stelmanis laughs, "this is the album where we discovered rhythm." (ed. note: Well touring with the likes of Gossip does that to people.)

However If you are a creep like me and always spent time reading the lyrics of each and every song in an album then you will release that the songs you dance to are quite personal and sometimes full of dark emotions. But please do note that if you are  expecting to hear another "The Beast" or "Beat and the Pulse" you are in for a  disappointment.

"What we done?" is a very good indicator of what is to come in this album and the upbeat rhythm along with the ever operatic voice of Stelmanis gradually sets the mood for a heart wrenching dance marathon. Again remember to listen to the lyrics. Songs you dance to are not always necessarily happy songs..

"Forgive Me" continues to the same path laid up from the opening song and this is the moment you  realize the truth in Stelmanis statement about Maya. I should admit however that the one thing I liked to "Forgive Me" are the backing vocals of Sari & Romy Lightman. Which for me says a lot, as I don't generally appreciate  interruptionswhenever I come across voices like the voice of Stelmanis.

"Painful like" is the song I consider has been inspired by Beth Ditto. Electro funk meets techno. Music full of synths and bass but at the same time disturbingly honest with Stelmanis singing  "You resemble morning light. Blue skin on top of mine. Give me the creeps, I'll pay for that. Hold you in my underwear. Give me the creeps, I'll pay for that. Someone might see, but I don't care. Uh, we done lost too many. In the land that barely goes. Doesn't your star look buried?. Holding my hands against your thigh. Who will carry?"
"Sleep" has only a few memorable moments in the whole 4 minutes it lasts and these moments are only the times Stelmanis and and the Lightman twins hit a crescendo. Other than that I have to admit that the songs  intriguing, bit 80's sound is not one of my favorites.

"Home" wisely enough acted as the first single for Olympia. A song with an intro very similar to the general feeling produced on "Feel it Break". As the seconds pass by the song transforms to a dance percussive keyboard filled song. Once more though the lyrics are far from cheery. Case point  "You know that it hurts me when you don't come home at night. My body can't rest unless you're sitting by my side. You know that it hurts me when you stay away all night. What is it that kees you there?. Keeping you occupied from my heart."

"Fire" is reminding my of Royksopp and Ladytron. Which under different circumstances would not be a bad thing. After all as a teenager I was a huge fan of their work. I even had a friend of mine print Royksopp's logo to one of my sweaters. Problem is I am no longer a teenager and I only wear that sweater whenever I walk my dogs. "I don't care (I am a man)" is a 70 second track which ultimately is worth for the raw tale of indoor fighting as told by the lyrics of Stelmanis.

"We Become" is an easy flowing pop song with a late 80's, early 90's feeling, filled with synths, drums and romantic backing vocals from the Lightman twins. "Reconcile" is a soothing song and one of the few from the album where the synthesizer and the backing vocals steal the show from Stelmanis. Both tracks set a different warmer tone to the album and set the pace for next track "Annie (Oh muse, you)".
"You changed my life" starts with a slow intro with just the piano and the voices of Stelmanis and the Lightman twins and gradually evolves in a drum-piano combo which last for about 2 minutes.

Finally "Hurt me now" is for me probably one of the best songs of the album, if not the best. Stelmanis asking "oh please don't me hurt now" while synths, bass, drums and  wood-chimes fill in the  background. A combination which ultimately produces a dreamy song.

In the end Austra does not strike me as your usual electro-pop band. They started out with an almost goth like album, they have a frontwoman with a voice destined for operatic songs and their lyrics are full of pathos and raw emotions. Maybe this album is not what we all expected from them. Maybe some will be disappointed from this album. Maybe some others will be intrigued. For what is worth I am intrigued. And if I have learned something over the years and the bands and artists I have followed is that you should almost always judge them after their 3rd album.. So I will wait. Until then, I will keep on dancing to the sad songs Stelmanis and co have produced. I suggest you do the same. 





Primary Genre: Synth Pop, Dream Pop, Electro Pop


Subgenre: Dark Wave , New Wave


Release Date: 17 june 2013


Label: Domino


Influences: Gossip, Kate Bush, Warpaint


Like This And You'll Probably Also Like: the knives, warpaint, xx, gossip


Album Highlights: "You changed my life", "Home", "Painfull like"









Austra- Olympia


Contributor mini-profile

Katerina Antonopoulou

Katerina Antonopoulou

10 Fluffy Reviews
Remember what Dread Astaire used to sing: “Shit happens when you party naked”. It sounds disturbingly fun. Don’t you think?
Mini bio

She almost failed math in high school because instead of solving integrals she kept reading "Q" and "NME". Luckily she is somewhat intelligent and managed to get her degree from Uni. She now works her way towards becoming a broker, which would be relatively easy if it wasn't for the fact that her social skills are equal to those of Mr Bean.

Favourite Bands / Artists
The Kills
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Depeche Mode