Essential New Music: Austra’s “Future Politics”

If there’s one thing that immediately stands out in Austra’s music, it’s the rafter-raising voice of leader Katie Stelmanis. As Austra continues its progression from solo project to full-on band, Stelmanis and Co. have assembled Future Politics, their third album. Less brooding than their darkwave debut and partially stripped of Olympia’s gloss, this latest offering carries an overwhelming feeling of desperation; Stelmanis sings as though time is running out for her to get a message through. Despite the increased presence and influence of bandmates, Stelmanis sounds increasingly alone on Future Politics. Her voice is just out of reach on “Freepower” and her piano is placed at the forefront on the title track. The standout comes right in the middle of the album; “I Love You More Than You Love Yourself” is at once heartbreaking and heartwarming. An effervescent song that showcases the power and range of Stelmanis’ instrument, it’s a crowning achievement on an LP that boasts some of Austra’s best work yet.

—Eric Schuman