Austra – Feel It Break

It’s hard not to draw comparisons between Austra’s debut and Hercules and the Love Affair. And it’s not that they even sound alike. Austra’s not even remotely disco. But Feel It Break picks up on what were H&LA’s strongest aspects: the Antony-helmed tracks that positioned flawless, operatic vocals against strong electronic beats, too rhythmic to really be sorrowful, too emotionally resonant to be pigeonholed as just a dancefloor staple. It’s not a bad place to be, at all. Katie Stelmanis’s vocals are stunning, weaving effortlessly from aching vibrato to choir-like highs to echoed and breathy, and looped to the point where she’s often harmonizing with different manifestations of her own voice, which she’s damn good at. The synthetic beats are gentle rather than forceful, cradling Stelmanis’s voice for a seamless effect. “Lose It” is Feel It Break’s most powerful track, and features one of the loveliest, most angelic all-vowel bridges I’ve heard in a long time — and let’s be honest, those really are everywhere. It’s heartful, pleading and upbeat all at once. Synths and mixers let up at the end of the piano-driven “The Beast,” a distinctly visual number that could function as a soundtrack to a fairytale in and of itself. “Beat and the Pule” — the lyrics of which the album title is derived from — is dark and atmospheric, and more than lives up to its name. “Hate Crime” and “The Choke” are hauntingly intimate, blending sorrowful vocals with twinkling synths. If this doesn’t end up on my end of year “Best Of,” you’re welcome to slap me. (Paper Bag Records, Brietta O’Leary