By: Hilary Johnston July 15th, 2013
Austra’s sophomore release, Olympia, takes the already ominous synth-wave style of Feel It Break (2011) and blends in more caliginous timbres and danceable beats. Keep in mind, these changes come as no surprise considering the former three-piece has doubled in size. Now a six member sect, the lyrics are grander and more personal, even political at times. Comparisons to Lykke Li are apt, in particular the similar refrain of “Forgive Me”, which bears a striking auditory likeness to “I Follow Rivers” in its use of melody and pensive vocals. At its most inspired, the LP revels in its use of rhythm, driving the record forward, guiding the listener to the end of the album instead allowing them to drop off at track six or eight.
The songs on Olympia have a consistent contour. Starting with a single riff, layers of percussion and euphony are gradually weaved in until a musical climax is reached, with Katie Stelmanis’ wail reduced to a distant whimper.
To fresh ears, it’s beautiful the first few times. However, after 12 tracks of the same shape, it gets a bit wearisome and indistinguishable. That’s not to say there isn’t musical craft involved. If you go looking for it, you will find some subtle variation between tracks. For example, “We Become” has the flavour of a reggae dance party while ‘Hurt Me Now’, the album’s finale, slows it down with a smidgeon of melodrama.
Generally a pleasant listen, the indifference of its lasting appeal is a point of concern. I can objectively discern that the LP is of quality, but I know that something similar is also waiting right around the corner. Sure Olympia is good, but it won’t make any ‘Best of 2013’ lists.