July 23, 2009

The Rural Alberta Advantage

Toronto, ON
Recorded, mixed and produced in Toronto by
Roger Leavens at BoomBox | Mastered by Fedge

The Rural Alberta Advantage’s debut, Hometown, could be the soundtrack to an anxiety dream. Most of the tracks on the album have the potential to rip into a full sprint, but something is always there to hold them back, to pace wisely without compromising energy. Paul Banwatt’s hyper, front-court drumming counteracts the hazy, barely escaping vocals of Nils Edenholff, making for a viscerally charged record.

The opener, “The Ballad of the RAA,” mixes deep keys with rapid, sparse kicks, frantic hi-hats and tweeful vibes. But “Don’t Haunt this Place” encapsulates the album’s mood with a story of two separating lovers trying not to spoil a good apartment with bad memories.

The tantra explodes partially on “Luciana,” tightens up again on “Frank, AB,” and eases into post-coital mode on “The Air.” On “Four Night Rider,” lovers collude to skip town in a punk paced quickie tracking in at 1:54. “Edmonton” and the album closer “In the Summertime” make significant stylistic use of the “two hearts beating as one” image two times over from the former’s “Sync your hearbeat to mine” to the latter’s “Once in a while/I know our hearts beat out of time.” The “home is where the heart is” theme pervades the album, working well in places, but is somewhat overdone in others.

Comparisons have been drawn to Neutral Milk Hotel, but mainly because of vocalist Nils Edenholff’s nasal croon; the lyrics – more grounded in reality – could not be more dissimilar. The slow melody of “Sleep All Day” could be a drums-heavy Yo La Tengo number, and “Rush Apart” could come right off the Dodos album Visitor. Truth is, these Canadians are molding themselves with a conscious hand, and a propulsive, energetic confidence – and their personality shines through. (Saddle Creek Records)
-Jake Schnaidt


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