Austra - Future Politics (Domino)

Taking its cues from current world events, the Canadian alt. pop outfit return with impressive third LP

Released Jan 20th, 2017 via Domino / By Max Pilley
Austra - Future Politics (Domino) One does not release an album titled Future Politics by accident. The specific timing may be somewhat serendipitous, coming out as it does on you-know-who’s day of inauguration, but the decline of political discourse has been evident for some years, even if too many of us were too slow to fully grasp it.

Austra’s third album is not a manual on how to survive the next four (eight?!) years, nor is it a clear-headed prediction of where we’ll stand. That is all too literal; rather, this is a record that reminds us to make our futures what we want them to be through our own decisions. “Reality’s beating, a grave has been dug/I’m looking for something to rise above”, Katie Stelmanis sings on the title track.

Stelmanis has taken almost full artistic control of the Austra name, following the six-piece effort of Olympia in 2013. Working with Maya Postepski on production and Alice Wilder with the mixing, the album boasts her inimitable stamp of empowered, operatic vocals (particularly expressive on ‘I’m a Monster’).

Living in Mexico City during the writing process, the location forced her to adopt a new perspective on the effects of North American capitalism on the rest of the world. “I know I believed in nothing before”, she admits on opening track and album standout, the existential cry of ‘We Were Alive’ – well, if she didn’t then, it’s clear that she does now. “Undo the damage” is the recurring refrain from ‘Gaia’, an environmental plea. The messages are there, but they are not yelled at you. The modus operandi of the album is for everyone to find their own truth.

The music is sparser than on previous Austra records, recalling the detached coolness of The Knife on several tracks, including the unsettling ‘Beyond a Mortal’. But despite this, Future Politics is an album that finds hope where it is hidden. If this is what politics look like in the future, then at least the music will be good.