Album Review: Austra – HiRUDiN

Toronto’s Austra, fronted by classically-trained vocalist Katie Stelmanis, have become a mainstay in Canadian electronic circles since their debut in 2009. Feel it Break, their 2011 debut album, was a beautifully textured electro-pop effort with heartbreaking vocals from Stelmanis. Their follow up albums have stayed the same course, with beautiful music backing Stelmanis’ fragile and heartstring-pulling voice. The two lead off singles from HiRUDiN, “Anywayz” and “Risk It” both skate on the edge of falling apart, with minimalist electronic pop buoyed and sank by heart-wrenching vocals. Most of the album has that sinking, imminent feeling of destruction to it, a sort of feeling that that album will just stop in dead silence all of a sudden. A notable exception is “Mountain Baby”, recorded with a youth choir and a dash of piano, giving it a more uplifting and hopeful feeling than the rest of the songs here. This is a great album for a rainy day in fall, or getting trapped indoors during a blizzard in the middle of January.