Domino Records
Street: 06.17
Austra = Zola Jesus + Blouse + Chairlift
2011’s Feel It Break was essentially Katie Stelmanis’ bedroom project. For their second album, Stelmanis was inspired by touring with Austra and created Olympia in a studio setting with her bandmates. The album is brighter and more playful than their first, and features sounds that risk damaging their image of gothic darkness. They seem to be leaving arbitrary labels behind, though the lyrics here are just as dismal as before. Stelmanis’ vocal performance and song structures are more confident. The songs here are all great explorations of pop configurations—“Painful Like” has been around for a while now, and it’s a standout dance-pop tune. “Home” begins stripped bare of most recognizable Austra elements, with only Stelmanis and a riveting staccato piano that builds to a quiet crescendo with complementary instrumentation. Olympia still has its flashes of gothic pop, too (“Hurt Me Now,” “What We Done?”). Feel the challenge that this fresh group necessitates—climb the heights of Olympia and soar with Stelmanis. –Christian Schultz