Austra - Katie Stelmanis - Photo by Katie Young

Photo by Katie Young

Some artists are more attracted to the dark aspects than others. Charismatic Canadian singer Katie Stelmanis and her wave pop ensemble AUSTRA are the perfect example for it. Their music represents different aspects of darkness and is somehow also always combined with an aspect of hope. Last year’s acclaimed sophomore album Olympia went into that direction and the recently released Habitat EP followed the path although taking a slightly more experimental way. There’s something magical and mysterious about darkness. And who could give us a better insight into the aspects of darkness than Mr. Stelmanis herself?

NOTHING BUT HOPE AND PASSION asked the AUSTRA front woman to share her perspective on the ‘darkness aspect’ in music. These are seven of her favourite songs and her thoughts about them as well as on the general topic.

I read a quote by Leonard Cohen today: ‘Songs don’t dignify human activity. Human activity dignifies the song.’ It’s difficult to call a piece of music something as general as ‘dark’ because it will have a different effect on different people. The songs I have chosen may not bring to mind “darkness” at first, but their current position in pop culture, the stories behind them or that they have created, makes them some of the most harrowingly beautiful songs I can think of:


Joni Mitchell – ‘Woodstock’

One of the sad things about  ‘Woodstock’ is that Joni didn’t get to go to the actual festival cause she had to be on TV, and I think it broke her heart. What really does it for me, though, is that this song represents a generation of people that were so passionately unified behind one idea: PEACE ON EARTH. There was a desire to make change, the belief that change was possible, and everyone wanted to be a part of it.

Donna Summer – ‘Midnight Shift’

I don’t know what her midnight shift may have been or what she was singing about but her hypnotizing delivery makes working at night feel like one of the greatest tragedies one can experience in life.

Tori Amos – ‘Crucify’

I love Tori Amos and I love ‘Crucify.

Perfume Genius – ‘Hood’

This song and this video are my favorite thing on the internet right now. The big burly man is a famous gay porn star. Visually and sonically it just seems to embody and communicate all the glory and struggle one goes through growing up queer in America.

Queen – ‘We are the Champions’

Ok so ‘We are the Champions’ became a sports anthem, but it was actually written for and about gay people. Watching this video now I can’t even comprehend that people wouldn’t pick up on that, and of course the tragedy behind this song is one of the most famous in musical history.

The Carpenters – ‘We’ve Only Just Begun’

This song seems to be about building a life. Its devastating to listen to now because Karen died of Anorexia when she was 32 years old, and unfortunately since her death I fear the expectations on women in entertainment have only gotten worse.

Nina Simone – ‘Black is the colour of my true love’s hair’

A tender love song with heavy political undertones from one of our generations most insanely powerful + challenging artists.