Olympia takes what Austra did with Feel It Break in 2011 in terms of creating an enveloping atmosphere and extends it, resulting is a sound that is much brighter and polished. It is clear that you are listening to the same band; haunted piano chords linger under dark production with Katie Stelmanis’ rich voice taking centre stage. This time around, though, the dancefloor influences are more literal, the percussion is more creative, and the sound is more confident.
There are moments where they really hit it out of the park. The charming woodwind samples, the blending of Stelmanis’ voice with Sari and Romy Lightman’s, and the occasionally clink-y percussion all work wonders when they appear. I do feel, though, that the album is top-heavy. It opens with a slow patter of noise preceding wavering bass on “What We Done?”, breaks into heartfelt choruses on “Forgive Me”, and delivers an incredible danceable pop song in “Painful Like”.
Can we talk more about how excellent “Painful Like” is? It’s the perfect pace for dancing down hallways, contains a wonderfully bouncy synth hook, and drives forward with drum beats and woodblock sounds in the distance. It’s the type of song that still sounds fresh even after a day of listening to it on a loop.
As the album continues though, it seems to falter a bit – “Sleep” never achieves the epicness it aims for, and “Reconcile” loses steam on its chorus – but that doesn’t mean that this isn’t a rather good record. It just means that Austra has more room to grow, and based on the leaps forward in production and songwriting going on here, their third may just hit all of the right notes.
Top Tracks: “Painful Like”, “What We Done?”, “Annie (Oh Muse, You)”
Rating: Proud Hoot (Really good)