Album review: "Feel It Break"
"Feel It Break," the debut album by Toronto's Austra, leaves you both fulfilled and wanting more. In a good way. The group's icy synth-pop is well constructed, and Katie Stelmanis's alluring voice anchors all 11 songs. There's not much variation from the moody, mid-tempo electro-goth template, but it's done impressively enough to envision a follow-up album with an expanded repertoire equally well executed.
Austra isn't alone in digging up sulky sounds from the '80s but works in the middle ground, rarely indulging in over-the-top dramatics or sparse soundscapes. Stelmanis's voice makes extra embellishments unnecessary and is powerful enough to command attention. It's not surprising that she sang with the Canadian Children's Opera Chorus as a kid. But in addition to her impressive technique, she has soul. There's real ache in her voice when she sings, "Don't wanna lose you" on "Lose It."
That song's bouncy beat makes it one of the most memorable, and the similarly buoyant "The Future" suggests that true electro-pop crossover is within Austra's grasp. Alternately, the gloominess of "The Choke" makes you want the band to explore darker places. Austra sounds excellent in its comfort zone but might sound even better once it breaks outside of it.
--David Malitz, July 29, 2011