WHICH WITCH? Zola Jesus vs Austra

Zola Jesus made my favourite album of 2010 – Stridulum II - and this year the not dissimilar Austra, fronted by Katie Stelmanis, came along with their incredible Feel it Break and went straight to the top of my most-played list.

Last week ZJ caught up, releasing her third album, Conatus and I dutifully went along to her London launch gig thinking what of these two gothic leading ladies? Where does my loyalty lie?

The similarities do stack up  – both are operatically-trained, of Eastern European heritage with north American roots and bottle blonde hairdos and they’re both singers with a penchant for some spooky vocals. But that’s not really a problem. Far from feeling betrayed or suspicious of either, I think I simply must embrace them both – it’s that thing of being in love with a band and wanting to see them every time they play, buy all their records, (and merch) and somehow still feeling deeply unsatisfied. So having both Austra and ZJ around at the same time is an amazing fan-girl coup. I LOVE THEM BOTH. But, although they are each wonderful in many ways, I wondered what might happen in Katie Austra vs ZJ, a fun fight to help me decide which of them is ‘better’. Here we go:

Name: Zola Jesus

Age: 22

Lives: LA/on tour

Albums: 3

Rave factor: it’s not really about raves, it’s about softly swaying and shutting your eyes 6/10

Blondeness: she’s dyed almost white – got to be a 10/10

On stage: beautifully fragile but bolstered by that voice 9/10

Spookiness: she’s not meant to be scary 3/10

Look: little bit dreamy, little bit goth – flowing dresses, hair in face and simple shades of black or blanche: 9/10

Backing band: What backing band? 3 dudes all dressed in black hitting their laptops while she shimmers out front in white on white. It’s all about ZJ. 5/10

Influences: Orbital plus top girls Bjork, Tori Amos, PJ Harvey, Siouxie and Lydia Lunch.

Score: 61

Katie Stelimanus [Austra]

Age: 26 or 27

Lives: Toronto/on tour

Albums: 1 with Austra

Rave factor: who doesn’t love a bit of strobe lighting (see Beat and the Pulse) 8/10

Blondeness: often seen sporting Courtney-roots, Katie is a natural brunette 7/10

On stage: has some brilliant conjuring hand moves and natural stage charisma. Moves between instrumentation and dancing about 9/10

Spookiness: um spellbinding? 2/10

Look: hippie/hipster/witchy/goth 9/10

Backing band: Austra isn’t just Katie – there are the twin backing singers, bassist Dorian (who practically has his own fan club), drummer Maya and keyboarder Ryan – a hot 10/10

Influences: The Knife, Enya, Florence, Bjork, Depeche Mode.

Score: 71 or 72 – [reluctant] WINNER. sorry ZJ, this really doesn’t mean anything!

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Co-editor and co-founder of Pamflet //

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