Published May 01, 2020On Austra's poignant fourth album HiRUDiN, Katie Stelmanis traces a deeply personal journey of growth, queerness and toxic relationships. Named after the anticoagulant released by leeches, HiRUDiN fittingly explores the parasitic nature of toxicity and the healing that it can call forth.
Second track "All I Wanted" sets the tone for the album, with its potent breakup lyrics reading like exasperated dialogue from a defeated lover. Angry and bombastic, Stelmanis exclaims that "it doesn't matter if you're sorry 'cause I'm leaving tomorrow." "All I wanted was your love," she sighs, capturing the exact moment when love surrenders and disdain floods in. "Risk It" finds her vocals altered to the point of shrill desperation. They play on loop, singing "Risk it, I wouldn't risk it" anchoring a chorus doused in fear but cloaked in an electronic, bubblegum-pop exterior.
The album's highlights are "Your Family," a short experimental clip focusing on the aftermath of a breakup, and "Mountain Baby," which is the album's most commercial track. It's a potent love song that stands out thanks to contributions by Cecile Believe (formerly Mozart's Sister) and a children's choir.
For all its focus on breakups, love very much appears on the record. "How Did You Know?" uses light and layered synths to create air on the album and explore the feeling of hope found in a new love. "It's Amazing" follows in a similar vein but with an emphasis on drums and bass. Closing track "Messiah" acts a catharsis for the listener. Austra steps down from the metaphorical pedestal of past loves and finds harmony. "I'll be your shadow, you'll be the light," she sings, "a balance will settle between us." (Domino / Pink Fizz Records)