Here are what some of the WSN music writers picked as their favorites of 2011:
by Brian Capuder
Austra– “Feel It Break”
If you’ve ever heard an Austra song, you would know it. Few bands in my repertoire have such a unique and distinctive style. Even their covers of rock out songs like The Strokes’s “Alone, Together” are spun into truly original arrangements that capture the dark synth essence that is Austra. They were one of the biggest buzz bands at SXSW this year and have even started touring with the likes of the wonderfully talented James Blake. I had the pleasure of seeing Austra back in Cleveland with Cold Cave which was quite the spectacular spectacle. They manage to be dance-y while maintaining a creepy allure that leaves the listener in a dazed state of desire for more.
The band consists of Katie Stelmanis (lead vocals) who sounds like Marina & the Diamonds with weirder vocals except with a much more guttural sound. The backup singers that accompany her include the Tasseomancy twins. During shows, they stare forward as if in a trance while dancing, casting a shadow of fascinating ritualism. The band backing the ladies is superb and features a bass, drums, and synth.
Debut album, “Feel It Break,” was shortlisted for the Polaris Mercury Prize. It deserves this honor as the fusion of ’80s trance synth works well with the dark dance vibes that Austra put on this album. The album can be described as new wave of a similar vein to recent upshots like Zola Jesus. “Feel It Break” has a great consistency, but the album’s highpoints are “Beat and The Pulse” and “Shoot The Water.” “Beat and The Pulse” features a synth build that leads into multiple different melody changes that give the song a unique texture. “Shoot The Water” would be the first Austra song that I show people though because it’s classic Austra and has a pretty killer keyboard hook. “Feel It Break” is one of the best albums of the year because it travels well and listening to it could provoke a dance, or even a trance.
Brian Capuder is a contributing writer. Email him at email@example.com.