Feel It Break

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Feel It Break
Studio album by Austra
Released May 13, 2011 (2011-05-13)
Recorded 6 Nassau, Canterbury Studios, Giant Studios (Toronto, Ontario)
Genre Synthpop, new wave[citation needed]
Length 47:17
Label Paper Bag
Producer Austra
Austra chronology
Sparkle
(2011)
Feel It Break
(2011)
Olympia
(2013)
Singles from Feel It Break
  1. "Beat and the Pulse"
    Released: November 16, 2010 (2010-11-16)[1]
  2. "Lose It"
    Released: May 9, 2011 (2011-05-09)[2]
  3. "Spellwork"
    Released: September 5, 2011 (2011-09-05)[3]

Feel It Break is the debut studio album by Canadian electronic band Austra, released on May 17, 2011 by Paper Bag Records. The album received generally positive reviews from music critics, who complimented lead singer Katie Stelmanis's voice and compared the band to the likes of Kate Bush, Cocteau Twins, Fever Ray, Zola Jesus, and Depeche Mode. Additionally, it was shortlisted for the 2011 Polaris Music Prize, and has received a Juno Award nomination for Electronic Album of the Year. Feel It Break has spawned three singles so far: "Beat and the Pulse", "Lose It", and "Spellwork".

A deluxe edition was released digitally on November 29, 2011, followed by a double CD edition on December 13, 2011 that is limited to 1000 copies.[4] Additional tracks include the "Beat and the Pulse" B-sides "Young and Gay" (written by Stelmanis as a tribute to the late Toronto artist and activist Will Munro)[5] and "Energy";[6] the "Spellwork" B-side "Identity";[3] the unreleased B-sides "Believe Me", "Trip", and "Pianix"; cover versions of Joni Mitchell's "Woodstock" (a B-side to "Lose It")[2] and Roy Orbison's "Crying"; and a remix of "Beat and the Pulse" by Shawn "Clown" Crahan of Slipknot.[4]

Critical reception[edit]

Professional ratings
Aggregate scores
Source Rating
Metacritic 75/100[7]
Review scores
Source Rating
Allmusic 4/5 stars[8]
The A.V. Club B[9]
Clash 8/10[10]
The Guardian 4/5 stars[11]
NME 7/10[12]
Now 4/5[13]
Pitchfork Media 7.3/10[14]
PopMatters 6/10[15]
Slant Magazine 4/5 stars[16]
Spin 7/10[17]

Feel It Break received positive reviews from most music critics. At Metacritic, which assigns a normalised rating out of 100 to reviews from mainstream critics, the album received an average score of 75, based on 24 reviews, which indicates "generally favorable reviews".[7] Heather Phares of Allmusic gave the album four out of five stars and wrote that Stelmanis "shar[es] the aloof beauty of Glasser, Esben and the Witch, Fever Ray, and Zola Jesus. Unlike some of the band's peers, however, there's a humanity to Stelmanis' vocals that, even when distorted, keeps Feel It Break '​s songs from feeling too remote." She continued, "On this consistently hypnotic debut, Austra carve out a place of their own among their contemporaries."[8] The Guardian '​s Michael Hann agreed, stating that although Austra "have been lumped in with the synth-gothisms" of Zola Jesus and Fever Ray, "there's a cleanliness and sharpness about them that belies those associations. Katie Stelmanis sings with a cut-glass voice, and the precision of the electronic music behind her—always carefully restrained, never overwhelming—might be chilly, but it's rarely foreboding."[11] Similarly, Benjamin Boles of Now magazine commented that the band's "dark electronic production and soaring vocals are often compared to acts like Fever Ray and Zola Jesus, but Austra is far from a carbon copy of their goth-dance sensibilities. Stelmanis brings a more musical sensibility to the formula, even if it's still miles away from mainstream pop", praising the album as an "extremely strong debut".[13]

In a review for The A.V. Club, Chris Martins noted that Austra "hits the holy trinity of synthesizer music on Feel It Break" and that the album is heavily influenced by "the high drama and dated synths of Cocteau Twins", "the clangy darkwave pioneered by Gary Numan", and "the jaunty, syllable-stretching weirdness of Kate Bush", concluding that "Austra is best when all three influences expertly converge—like on the groove-steeped creeper 'Beat And The Pulse'—or when none of them bother showing at all, as on the epic closer 'The Beast'."[9] Charlie Frame of Clash, rating the album eight out of ten, expressed that "[t]he songwriting and production are strong throughout and often Stelmanis acquires a surprisingly rich amount of warmth from her dramatically sweeping sound that's rarely heard in this scene. With the cool-o-meter currently set at all things synthy and coldwave-y, Austra look set for big things."[10] Pitchfork Media reviewer Tom Breihan scored the album 7.3 out of ten, commenting that Austra "play a warm, hazy sort of electro-goth. It's synthetic and repetitive, and there's plenty of Giorgio Moroder in its DNA, but it's not dance music. Instead, it's music for a planetarium, or maybe for a mid-1980s PBS science documentary. Austra's synth riffs don't pound or undulate; they flutter and envelop. And Stelmanis doesn't sing over the top of their tracks; she emits sound from somewhere in the thick of it."[14]

Andy Beta of Spin opined that the band's "seedy synth pop more often recalls Kate Bush's dramatic art songs and the Knife's ghostly techno-pop (and more specifically, the soured vowels of frontwoman Karin Andersson). But from surging, operatic opener 'Darken Her Horse' to closing piano ballad 'Lose It,' Stelmanis' voice and vision are mostly her own."[17] Slant Magazine's Paul Schrodt gave the album four out of five stars, noting that the album "combines the atmospherics of darker new wave with a thumping, Giorgio Moroder-type beat. It's big in scope, but clean in sound. Every detail of the production feels carefully thought out. In the background, it's all piano, chimes, drums, and sleek synths. At the front, it's Stelmanis's voice, a glorious Kate Bush-like caterwaul that can also drop much lower".[16] Laura Snapes of the NME commended the album's first half, but felt that the second half does not "quite [hit] such ecstatic peaks", adding that "although Katie's piano skills are impressive, final song 'The Beast' is too stripped back and literal, erring a teensy bit on Evanescence balladry." She concluded, "The odd misfire aside, Feel It Break is self-assured and utterly consuming. At this rate, [Stelmanis will] be leading the pack soon."[12] Arnold Pan of PopMatters called the album "promising" and characterized Stelmanis' "eccentric" voice as "[u]nique and resembling nothing except itself", but remarked that "Feel It Break as a whole is a little uneven because Austra still seems to be looking to strike the right balance between its different parts. That's not to say, though, that Austra won't grow to possess a richer, fuller aesthetic, something that the group shows it's capable of on the debut's most complete tracks, 'Spellwork' and 'The Villain'."[15]

Accolades[edit]

New York magazine named Feel It Break the best album of 2011, writing that "[t]he astonishing thing about this debut album of prim and chilly Canadian synth pop is singer Katie Stelmanis—the shuddery force in her operatic voice, and the way she builds it into layers and harmonies that feel like little sculptures."[18] The Edmonton Journal also named it the best album of 2011 and opined, "Gorgeous, dark, and unsettling, these 11 tunes could very well be the unofficial soundtrack to The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo and Lisbeth Salander's (fictional) life."[19] Exclaim! proclaimed it as the seventh best album of 2011 and stated, "Surrounded by sweeping synth hooks, old school bass boogie, a duo of angelic vocalists and beating drums, the Toronto-based creative trio is a musical force to be reckoned with", while referring to Feel It Break as "a stellar album consisting of dark haunting melodies illuminated by immediate electro grooves".[20] Clash included the album at number eight on its list of The Best Debut Albums of 2011, commenting that "[p]erfectly pitched melodrama, dateless sounds and a voice to kill a hundred choirboys made all her peers sound like they're off to an alternative karaoke night down the student union."[21]

Drowned in Sound ranked Feel It Break as the twenty-fourth best album of 2011 and compared the album to "CocoRosie and Bat for Lashes making an album with Matthew Dear".[22] About.com placed it at number forty-one on its list of the Top Alternative Music Albums of 2011, noting that "[t]he brilliantly-produced Feel It Break finds the Canadian Children's Opera Chorus survivor rebranding herself as electro-goth chanteuse: huge new-wave synths and cold electronic programming taking her piano playing into dark directions. It's impossible not to note what a 2011 move this is, but Stelmanis does it with such aplomb that it's hard not to be charmed."[23] The NME listed Feel It Break at number forty-five on its list of the 50 Best Albums of 2011, calling it "[o]ne of the crispest electro-pop records of 2011" and describing it as "a work of simple pop pleasures and dark electronic emotions, with depths as grand as the group's auspicious future".[24] PopMatters, on its list of The 75 Best Albums of 2011, ranked the album at number sixty-two and claimed that "what distances Feel It Break from the rest of Austra's peers is its sneaky pop sensibility [...] and the way the classically-trained Stelmanis so seductively alternates between emotional distance and warm humanity."[25]

The album was shortlisted for the 2011 Polaris Music Prize, but lost out to Arcade Fire's The Suburbs.[26] It was also nominated for Electronic Album of the Year at the Juno Awards of 2012.[27]

Track listing[edit]

All songs written and composed by Austra, except where noted. 

No. Title Length
1. "Darken Her Horse"   5:21
2. "Lose It"   4:29
3. "The Future"   4:03
4. "Beat and the Pulse"   4:56
5. "Spellwork"   5:10
6. "The Choke"   4:12
7. "Hate Crime"   4:02
8. "The Villain"   4:06
9. "Shoot the Water"   3:23
10. "The Noise"   3:32
11. "The Beast"   4:03
Total length:
47:17

Personnel[edit]

Band
  • Katie Stelmanis – vocals, keyboards
  • Maya Postepski – drums
  • Dorian Wolf – bass
  • Austra – producers
Additional
  • Rob Carmichael – design
  • Jeremy Darby – piano engineer (tracks 2, 3, 6, 8, 11)
  • Carmen Elle – guitar (tracks 10, 11)
  • Mike Haliechuk – co-producer (tracks 1, 4)
  • Anissa Hart – cello (track 10)
  • Ewan Kay – trombone (track 9)
  • Joe Lambert – mastering
  • Damian Taylor – additional engineer (tracks 1, 2, 8, 10, 11); frequency harmonization, balance engineer, tone mixing (all tracks)
  • Anna-Sophia Vukovitch – violin (track 10)
  • Kate Young – photo art

Charts[edit]

Chart (2011) Peak
position
US Heatseekers Albums[29] 22

Release history[edit]

Country Date Label Format Edition
Australia[30] May 13, 2011 EMI CD, digital download Standard
Germany[31] Domino CD, 2× LP, digital download
United Kingdom[32] May 16, 2011
United States[33] May 17, 2011
Canada[34] Paper Bag Records
Poland[35] May 30, 2011 Sound Improvement CD
Australia[28] October 28, 2011 EMI 2× CD Tour Edition
Germany[36] November 25, 2011 Domino Digital download Deluxe
United Kingdom[37] November 28, 2011
United States[38]
Canada[4] November 29, 2011 Paper Bag Records
December 13, 2011 2× CD
Australia[39] December 30, 2011 EMI Digital download

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Releases". One Big Silence. Retrieved January 12, 2012. 
  2. ^ a b "Lose It". Domino. Retrieved January 12, 2012. 
  3. ^ a b "Spellwork". Domino. Retrieved January 12, 2012. 
  4. ^ a b c d Dina (November 29, 2011). "Austra Release 'Feel It Break' Deluxe Edition". Paper Bag Records. Retrieved January 12, 2012. 
  5. ^ Byrnes, Lindsey (March 7, 2011). "An interview with Katie Stelmanis of Austra". AfterEllen.com. Retrieved January 12, 2012. 
  6. ^ "Beat and the Pulse – EP by Austra". iTunes Store UK. Apple Inc. Retrieved January 12, 2012. 
  7. ^ a b "Feel It Break – Austra". Metacritic. CBS Interactive. Retrieved January 12, 2012. 
  8. ^ a b Phares, Heather. "Feel It Break – Austra". Allmusic. Rovi Corporation. Retrieved January 12, 2012. 
  9. ^ a b Martins, Chris (May 17, 2011). "Austra: Feel It Break". The A.V. Club. Onion, Inc. Retrieved January 12, 2012. 
  10. ^ a b Frame, Charlie (May 17, 2011). "Austra – Feel It Break". Clash. Retrieved January 12, 2012. 
  11. ^ a b Hann, Michael (May 12, 2011). "Austra: Feel It Break – review". The Guardian. guardian.co.uk. Retrieved January 12, 2012. 
  12. ^ a b Snapes, Laura (May 11, 2011). "Album Review: Austra – 'Feel it Break'". NME. IPC Media. Retrieved January 12, 2012. 
  13. ^ a b Boles, Benjamin (May 19, 2011). "Austra – Feel It Break". Now. Now Communications. Retrieved January 12, 2012. 
  14. ^ a b Breihan, Tom (May 16, 2011). "Austra: Feel It Break". Pitchfork Media. Retrieved January 12, 2012. 
  15. ^ a b Pan, Arnold (August 11, 2011). "Austra: Feel It Break". PopMatters. Retrieved January 12, 2012. 
  16. ^ a b Schrodt, Paul (May 6, 2011). "Austra: Feel It Break". Slant Magazine. Retrieved January 12, 2012. 
  17. ^ a b Beta, Andy. "Austra, 'Feel It Break' (Domino)". Spin. Spin Media LLC. Retrieved January 12, 2012. 
  18. ^ Abebe, Nitsuh (December 4, 2011). "The Year in Pop". New York. New York Media LLC. Retrieved January 13, 2012. 
  19. ^ "Nine picks for best album of 2011". Edmonton Journal. Postmedia Network. December 21, 2011. Retrieved January 13, 2012. 
  20. ^ "Pop & Rock 2011: 30 Best Albums". Exclaim!. December 2011. Retrieved January 13, 2012. 
  21. ^ "The Best Debut Albums Of 2011". Clash. December 12, 2011. Retrieved January 13, 2012. 
  22. ^ Adams, Sean (December 13, 2011). "DiS' Favourite Albums of 2011: 49–21". Drowned in Sound. Retrieved January 13, 2012. 
  23. ^ Carew, Anthony. "Top 50 Albums of 2011". About.com. The New York Times Company. Retrieved January 13, 2012. 
  24. ^ "50 Best Albums Of 2011". NME. IPC Media. Retrieved January 13, 2012. 
  25. ^ "The 75 Best Albums of 2011". PopMatters. December 27, 2011. Retrieved January 13, 2012. 
  26. ^ "Arcade Fire win 2011 Polaris Music Prize". NME. IPC Media. September 20, 2011. Retrieved January 12, 2012. 
  27. ^ Sterdan, Darryl (February 7, 2012). "Juno noms unveiled, Shatner hosting". Toronto Sun. Sun Media. Retrieved February 17, 2012. 
  28. ^ a b "Feel It Break (Tour Edition) – Austra". JB Hi-Fi. Retrieved January 12, 2012. 
  29. ^ "Austra Album & Song Chart History – Heatseekers Albums". Billboard. Prometheus Global Media. Retrieved January 12, 2012. 
  30. ^ "Feel It Break – Austra". JB Hi-Fi. Retrieved January 12, 2012. 
  31. ^ "Feel It Break: Austra" (in German). Amazon.de. Retrieved January 12, 2012. 
  32. ^ "Feel It Break". Domino. Retrieved January 12, 2012. 
  33. ^ "Feel It Break: Austra". Amazon.com. Retrieved January 12, 2012. 
  34. ^ Dina (May 17, 2011). "Austra's 'Feel It Break' Out Today!". Paper Bag Records. Retrieved January 12, 2012. 
  35. ^ "Feel It Break – Austra" (in Polish). Empik. Retrieved January 12, 2012. 
  36. ^ ""Feel It Break (Deluxe Version)" von Austra". iTunes Store Germany. Apple Inc. Retrieved January 12, 2012. 
  37. ^ "Feel It Break (Deluxe Edition)". Domino. Retrieved January 12, 2012. 
  38. ^ "Feel It Break (Deluxe Version) by Austra". iTunes Store US. Apple Inc. Retrieved January 12, 2012. 
  39. ^ "Feel It Break (Deluxe Version) by Austra". iTunes Store Australia. Apple Inc. Retrieved January 12, 2012.