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A few years ago an unusual thing happened. I got massively into Zola Jesus and that’s despite one of the jokers here telling me she sounded like Shakespeare’s Sister. ‘Stridulum II’ is still one of my most enjoyed records of recent times but it seems once someone makes a successful record in a particularly distinctive style, then there are waves of followers hoping to make their mark by using all the same ingredients. One of these was Austra, whose debut album had a similar foghorn like vocal style but whose musical stylings were far too clean and unoriginal to dare to compete with the murky best of Zola Jesus.
This second album carries on along the same path but replaces some of the rinky dink Woolworths synths with more sophisticated keyboard arrangements. Opener ‘What We Done?’ is pretty dark and gruesome but halfway through the second track ‘Forgive Me’ the vocal stylings start to grate as much as the dusty pink business suit she has chosen to wear on the sleeve. The music stylings are distinctly ‘80s, no reverby drenchings, no guitar murk, just clean ‘80s synths, kind of ‘85. Comparisons to The Knife have been mooted but the stylings here are very unremarkable and strong melodies are hard to pick out. It may take a few listens but one thing is certain, by the fifth track ‘Home’ I’ve had quite sufficient of her over emotive part Elaine Page, part strangled cat vocal style that I have absolutely no alternative but to turn it off.
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