The third album from Toronto-originated band Austra comes at a time when we need positive thinking more than ever. The aptly-titled Future Politics will be released on Inauguration day, and will hopefully allow us to take our minds off of the doomsday event for a brief moment.
Austra’s frontwoman Katie Stelmanis has long been politically active both in and out of the recording studio. As a queer-identified woman who was once active in Toronto’s gay nightlife scene (before it suffered the same warp-speed gentrification as Brooklyn), Stelmanis can’t help but be aware of how much queer identity has changed in the past 20 years. Her band mate, Maya Postepski, also identifies as queer, and as such, it’s only natural that the two would work together to create their most politically affecting record yet. But it wasn’t always so easy for Austra to resonate with the LGBTQ community.
In a 2011 interview with the legacy lesbian website After Ellen, Stelmanis vocalized her frequent struggle with being gay and a musician:
“I’d like to say being a ‘gay band’ means being gay and being in a band, but most of my band mates are gay and we’ve never really had that classification. I’m not sure if it’s based on the type of music we make or the community we come from, but I’ve always wondered why we seem to be exempt from the label. It probably has to do with the fact there are a lot of stereotypes of what a gay band—particularly lesbian-identified band—should sound like, and we don’t really fit in with those stereotypes, which is confusing.”
Though they might not fit into any gay-band stereotypes, these labels are likely to come into play a lot more frequently with Trump at the helm of a fascist juggernaut determined to round everyone up and classify them. And this is where the notion of “future politics” becomes a truly beautiful concept. Maybe it is as Stelmanis says at the intro to the video for the title track: “How do we find hope when things seem so bleak? For me, hope lies in the future. It lies in the potential of a future world that doesn’t exist yet; a world can be created only if we can imagine it. It’s time to build visions that are radically different from anything we’ve known before. It’s time for future politics.”
In some respects, it’s a type of utopia, but, in others, it simply harkens back to The Smiths’ “Asleep,” in which Morrissey croons, “There is another world, there is a better world. Oh, there must be.” And sure, a lot of people have alluded to the fact that Morrissey is just telling us you get to that world by committing suicide, but in Austra’s case, it’s evident that the synth-infused quartet still has plenty of faith in humanity, and even if you don’t believe in yourself right now—or the fate of America—Austra will be here to “love you more than you love yourself,” as one of their songs so succinctly puts it.