Impactfully stripped back
It’s become something of a cliché to claim that an album has showcased a new side of an artist because of a stripped-back production style. But just because something is a cliché doesn’t mean it can’t contain some truth. HiRUDiN, the latest record from Austra, perfectly exemplifies the way in which stepping back from intense production can add new life and breath to your work.
Prior to the release of this album, we actually interviewed Katie Stelmanis of Austra. When speaking with her, we commented on the stripped-back nature of the album and she mentioned that it was in part due to her desire to present her lyrics more clearly. Prior to this record, many of the lyrics that Austra put forth were there to simply back up the music, but on HiRUDiN, Stelmanis takes advantage of her newfound lyrical prowess. This ultimately ends up being for the best, as the lyrics of tracks like “Mountain Baby” and “Risk It” conjure up intense imagery and emotions.
When aiming to strip back the density of one’s production there are always risks. Luckily Austra has managed to avoid these pitfalls entirely. The tracklist is full of lushly produced tracks like “I Am Not Waiting” and “Your Family” the latter of which is deeply reminiscent of Florence and the Machine. Ultimately this album ends up delivering in virtually every potential area. The production is stellar, the lyrics are full of life and emotion, it is by far the most impressive piece of work that Austra has produced. It even surpasses it’s critically acclaimed predecessor, Future Politics. Chances are that the world will take a moment or two to come around to this new side of the group, but once they look closely they’ll find an ocean well worth diving into.
It’s rare to see someone so boldly and confidently dive into risks like this. There were about a million ways in which this record could have derailed. The constant fluctuation between dense production and clean, free-flowing vocals easily could be seen as tonally confused or derivative. Because of their impeccable restraint, Austra has managed to overcome the odds, delivering a stellar indie-pop record that is sure to stick around in the conversation for years to come.