Why Austra should win the Polaris Prize

Austra (Andrew Colvin/Toro Magazine)

by Michael

Though Katie Stelmanis has been in music for a while, it’s just now that she’s getting recognition for her incredible success with electro-pop outfit Austra.

Much like Timber Timbre’s Creep On Creepin’ On, Austra’s Feel It Break has a pronounced atmosphere to it. As the title implies (and as the dark electronic beats reinforce), the album is essentially the sound of, well, things breaking. Not literally, of course.

“Beat and the Pulse” is arguably the focal point of this album. The darkness inherent in this album is present in the deeply-pitched beats and the electronics that sound like the toll of a death bell. The opening lyrics are also quite ominous: “A hundred angels lost/Fleeing from the beat and the pulse.”

Beyond this quite intense song, there is much more to suggest this idea of chaos and breaking down. Many song titles are like decorations: “The Choke”; “The Villain”; “The Noise” and “The Beast” all have their own scariness attached to them.

Getting beyond song titles, though, it’s rare for electronic music to have such a dark and pronounced atmosphere. While electronics have generally been more suited to clubs and dance parties, this is a whole other creature.

The shimmering pulses at the beginning of “Spellwork” make the song worthy of the title. “Shoot the Water” is insanely catchy, much like “Lose It.” The almost tribal-sounding percussion in “The Choke” makes for interesting listening.

To top it all off, the closing number “The Beast” is performed entirely on a piano. This proves that Stelmanis certainly doesn’t need to hide behind in a synthesizer to show that she’s got some serious vocal chops.

The reason this should win the prize? I’m grouping this together with Timber Timbre in terms of having a uniform theme and atmosphere. Feel It Break is most definitely more than a collection of songs- it’s an atmosphere. Perhaps jurors will take into account that part of what gives this album its “artistic merit” is its seamlessness.


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