Infinite Shuffle

April 17, 2011

66 – The Rural Alberta Advantage

Filed under: R, Toronto — assman41 @ 12:01 am

As I settled into my usual spot on the couch, preparing to finally give a proper listen to the music of The Rural Alberta Advantage, I quickly checked them out on Amazon.com. Scanning through the recommendations of similar albums, I took note of the inclusion of, among several newer discs, Neutral Milk Hotel’s magnum opus, In the Aeroplane Over the Sea.

Immediately as soon as I heard “The Ballad of The RAA”, the first track on their 2008 debut, Hometowns, I could see that the NMH comparison was apt. Lead singer Nils Edenloff’s raw, emotional vocals sound hauntingly similar to those of former NMH frontman Jeff Mangum.

The Rural Alberta Advantage – The Ballad of The RAA

The first time listening to that album, as well as the band’s follow-up, Departing, which came out this past March, it’s hard not to focus on the similarities to NMH. But upon further listens, a much more complex and nuanced sound begins to emerge.

Based in Toronto (nope, not in Alberta) and made up of only three members — Edenloff on guitar, Amy Cole on backing vocals and keyboards and Paul Banwatt on drums — their sound is simple but surprisingly varied.

The RAA are at their best when they pump up the vocal harmonies and add layers of instrumentation. “Don’t Haunt This Place” is part mumbly shoegaze, part soft indie-pop. And on “Four Night Rider”, the vocal exchanges between Edenloff and Cole call to mind the best of The New Pornographers.

The Rural Alberta Advantage – Don\’t Haunt This Place

While they are indie through and through, The RAA evoke thoughts of more mainstream bands, such as The Walkmen, The Hold Steady and The Strokes.

They’re also similar to The Avett Brothers in that they mix their sound and pace well throughout the album. They can go from rocking (“The Dethbridge to Lethbridge”) to folky (“The Air”) to slow and soft (“Sleep All Day”)

The Rural Alberta Advantage – The Dethbridge in Lethbridge

Often on Hometowns, as Edenloff’s voice becomes more strained, he starts to sound like something of a reined-in version of Billy Corgan. You can hear it on tracks such as “Luciana”, “Frank AB” and “Edmonton”.

On their latest release, they smooth out some of the rough edges but continue to explore varied influences. The piano plays a more prominent role on this album, with several tracks calling to mind — for lack of a better phrase — a “VH1 sound.” The songs have hints of acts such as The Fray or Mat Kearney or some other group that is tailor-made for VH1 that I just can’t put my finger on.

Thankfully, that vibe isn’t too overbearing.

Lest you forget about that Neutral Milk Hotel influence, the opening track, “Two Lovers” thrusts it right back into your consciousness. Other standout tracks include “Muscle Relaxants”, which doesn’t quite sound like anything else on the album, “Tornado ’87”, which reminded me of Billy Corgan trying to front an alt-country band, and “Barnes’ Yard”, possibly the catchiest track on here.

The Rural Alberta Advantage – Barnes\’ Yard

The album has been out less than two months, and I’m already clamoring for more from the band.

I just bought tickets to see them next weekend in Indianapolis. So that should quench my thirst for a little while.

Meanwhile, check out some more tracks from The RAA on their MySpace page.

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4 Comments »

  1. […] The Rural Alberta Advantage […]

    Pingback by CONCERT REVIEW: The Rural Alberta Advantage and Lord Huron « Infinite Shuffle — April 28, 2011 @ 12:07 am

  2. […] The Rural Alberta Advantage – Departing … I never got into Neutral Milk Hotel during their heyday, but this group is a nice consolation. I saw them live and met them afterwards, and it just added to my love for them and this album. … Favorite song: “Two Lovers” […]

    Pingback by Best of 2011 – My list « Infinite Shuffle — January 1, 2012 @ 12:01 am

  3. […] The Rural Alberta Advantage (Radio Radio, Indianapolis, April 23, […]

    Pingback by My favorite live shows « Infinite Shuffle — April 17, 2012 @ 12:25 am

  4. […] on ground already covered by bands such as The Lumineers, Wilco and Rural Alberta Advantage, this duo/quartet from Northampton, Mass., still manages to grab listeners with an eclectic mix of […]

    Pingback by 138 – The Sun Parade « Infinite Shuffle — November 25, 2012 @ 12:27 am


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