The timing of Austra’s Future Politics release could not have been more impeccable. Shortly after Donald Trump was inaugurated as the forty-fifth President of the United States, we were treated to this sonic delight. In the press release for the album, frontwoman Katie Stelmanis “asks each of us to remember that apocalypse is not an inevitability, but the product of human decision-making. It aims for a world without borders, where human compassion and curiosity drive technological innovation rather than profit, where the necessity of labor is replaced with time for creativity and personal growth, and the terror and destruction wrought by colonialism and white supremacy is recognized as a dark age in human history.”
Although it was inspired by her time living in Montreal and Mexico City, it’s hard to divorce the lyrical content from the current political situation in the U.S. that impacts lives worldwide. Stelmanis’ training as an opera singer adds depth to the words she’s singing. The beauty of her voice reveals the artifice of the dystopian visions she lays out which serves as a sort of stand-in for the modern day bread and circuses provided by the exponential growth in technological advances, leading to a sense of alienation from the neo-liberal machine that produces a constant state of war and funnelling of resources to the upper crust of society. Of course, these are merely abstract notions derived from what are mainly emotional lyrics, but there is a certain optimism towards a way out of the current paradigm with consecutive songs titled “Future Politics” and “Utopia.”
Stemanis mentions Massive Attack as an inspiration for the record, and that especially rings true on the opening track, “We Were Alive,” which is mainly comprised of a two-chord loop with a less rigid structure than normal with Austra. She is at her most direct on the title track, singing “I don’t want hear that it’s all my fault/ The system won’t help you when your money runs out.” In an interview with Nylon, she said the lyrics were inspired by reading about accelerationist theory which posits that the rapid rise in technological abilities will eliminate capitalist power structures because the ideas of labor and scarcity will become obsolete and that we should accept the inevitability of globalization going forward. It’s a pretty complex ideology to fit into a dancey, electronic soundscape, but Austra pulls it off with Future Politics.