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Thursday, March 3rd, 2011

North Star

Review of The Rural Alberta Advantage’s Departing

Photo via Vanessa HeinsVanessa HeinsIt’s fitting that there was on The Rural Albeta Advantage’s debut album Hometowns a song called “The Ballad Of The RAA” because really, theirs was a nearly perfect story. The Toronto trio went from sparsely-attended open mic nights around town through a whirlwind of buzz – including a glorious, crystalline moment in an packed Austin church – that saw them become critical and popular darlings, all on the back of that batch of perfect, almost bewilderingly-simple but heartfelt songs. If this were the feature film adaptation of their story, then the final scene might well have played out at Lee’s Palace in December 2009 with the band playing a jam-packed hometown homecoming show and basking in the love of friends and family, faded to black.

Real life, however, doesn’t get to just let the credits roll and short of disbanding, a sequel was guaranteed and a couple years on, has arrived in Departing. Now for some bands, saying that they’ve made the same record over again would be a slight but for The RAA, at least in this case, it’s meant as high praise. Their sonic signature was distinctive from day one, relying on just a handful of musical tools to bring their songs to life, and success hasn’t been converted into truckloads of new instruments to play with. They just took a break, took a breath, and got back to it.

On the similarities, Departing is still built on Nils Edenloff’s nasal rasp and battered acoustic guitar, Amy Cole’s humming keyboards and sweet harmonies and Paul Banwatt’s insane drumming; elements that might seem at odds with one another on paper yet are perfectly complimentary in practice. The songs are yearning and wistful, still informed by Edenloff’s past life as a young Albertan in love. Even so, Departing is far from redundant – it represents a further honing of the above elements, the sort that you only get from endlessly touring. The production is more consistent throughout the album – Hometowns sometimes bore the fingerprints of its drawn-out gestation – and the arc of the songs from start to finish feels more considered and fluid. And while it covers the same lyrical terrain as its predecessor, the emotional range is broader, featuring some of the band’s most gentle and raging moments. On an individual song basis, Hometowns might retain the edge in highlights but as a collection and an arc, Departing is every bit its equal if not better.

All that said, one has to wonder how much more mileage can be gotten from this formula which has served them so well thus far, both with regards to sound and songwriting. The tidiness of a trilogy aside, it’s hard to imagine a third record of this not entering diminishing returns territory and surely a band as talented as they would want to push their boundaries as well. That, however, is a deliberation for later. All that matters for now is that Departing, while not having the ineffable x-factor that comes with discovering one of your new favourite bands, is another superb record from a singular band and should be treasured.

The Rural Alberta Advantage play their biggest hometown show yet at The Phoenix on April 29. Paste, Spinner and The Wall Street Journal have interviews with the band, NPR a World Cafe session and Billboard coaxes an Abba cover out of them.

MP3: The Rural Alberta Advantage – “North Star”
MP3: The Rural Alberta Advantage – “Stamp”
Video: The Rural Alberta Advantage – “Stamp”

Pitchfork talks to Tom Scharpling about directing the latest New Pornographers video for “Moves”, outtakes from which have now surfaced on Vimeo.

Wireless Bollinger exchanges words with Dan Bejar of Destroyer. He plays Lee’s Palace on March 31.

BBC, The New Zealand Herald and Herald Sun talk to Dan Snaith of Caribou, who has released a new video from last year’s Swim.

Video: Caribou – “Jamelia”

Beatroute has an interview with Born Ruffians, who have a show at The Opera House on April 16.

The New Haven Advocate and Spinner catch up with Tokyo Police Club.

Exclaim rounds up various goings-on in the world of Fucked Up, including a live record and GG Allin tribute 7″. Their next studio record David Comes To Life is due in May.

Spinner talks to John O’Regan of Diamond Rings.

Muzzle Of Bees has premiered a new video from Great Lake Swimmers.

Video: Great Lake Swimmers – “Chorus In The Underground”

PopMatters interview Rolf Klausener of The Acorn. They’ve just announced an April 28 date at The Horseshoe with Evening Hymns.

MP3: The Acorn – “Restoration”

Beatroute discusses Degeneration Street with Murray Lightburn of The Dears.

Soundproof, Prefix and Filter have features on Young Galaxy, playing at Lee’s Palace on Thursday night as part of Canadian Musicfest.

NOW, eye and The Waterloo Record talk to Karkwa in advance of their local appearances next week – March 5 at Lee’s Palace opening for Plants & Animals, March 11 at Wrongbar for Canadian Musicfest and an in-store at Sonic Boom at 9PM on March 12.

Ottawa XPress, The Montreal Gazette, Ottawa Citizen and Brock Press have feature pieces on Jenn Grant.

By : Frank Yang at 8:30 am
Category: General

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  1. Kirstie says:

    Agreed!Really enjoying both albums so much and I love love love this band! I was worried that the RAA didn’t have a second album in them that was as good as their first but thankfully that wasn’t the case!