Austra are an electro-pop band from Toronto whose music, though beset by hot emotions, often sounds as if it was recorded in an Arctic cave. Sub-zero synths and crashing drums resound through this fine second album, while the powerful, tremulous voice of frontwoman Katie Stelmanis instils even minor sentiments with a sense of operatic foreboding. This works well on tracks such as Sleep, on which mutual incomprehension in a relationship is lamented against a background of icily tingling chimes. When the production heats up, however, and Stelmanis's vocals are offset, on We Become, by a Caribbean-flavoured synth line, the change of temperature feels warmly welcome.
Killian Fox writes about the arts, food, travel and science for the Observer. He won a British Journalism Award in 2020