Review Summary: Despite lacking some of the perfervid energy of their debut, The Rural Alberta Advantage follow through with a sophomore effort to remind us all why we loved them so much in the first place.5 of 5 thought this review was well written
There are many times that I would absolutely love to be in a band. These longing feelings are typically strongest around 2 a.m. on a Saturday night, when I grab my guitar and lead anywhere from five to fifteen people in an inebriated, off-tempo, hardly-melodic singing/screaming of some lame, overplayed Blink-182 song (or any other equally guilty pleasure). It reminds me of the end of that one Bomb the Music Industry!
tune where the beloved Jeff Rosenstock yelps out "I used to have dozens of fans! That's right, DOZENS!
" Yes, it's times like these that the splendors of being frontman in an indie rock band seem so lavish and bountiful…having hordes of college kids sing along to your songs, partying with them until the wee hours of the morning, and then taking off for some other town to do it all again the next day. Being in an awesome band sure would be great. In contrast, there are times where I'd most likely dread being in a band. Right about now, for example, I'd feel awfully anxious being a part of the Toronto-based indie-rock trio The Rural Alberta Advantage
. Back in 2008, they released Hometowns
, a debut LP that indie lovers and non-lovers alike fell in love with, myself included. Their debut received widespread critical acclaim and cemented the trio as a dynamic group worth watching out for in the future. Well kids, the future has arrived for our darling Canadian rockers, and everyone's eyes and ears are open wide. With their sophomore release of Departing
, the band steps into that harrowing abyss of high-expectations, where the critics stand ready with their verbal machetes and the commoners pack their sling-shots full of smack-talk and stinging verdicts about how "their old stuff was way better."
Well critics, put your swords back into their sheaths. Everyone else, go find another group to pass your unsubstantiated judgments on. The Rural Alberta Advantage
follow up in a big way with a record to remind everyone why they fell in love with this band in the first place. Despite lacking some of the youthful, aggressive energy found in Hometowns
on such feverish tracks as "The Dethbridge in Lethbridge" and "Luciana", Departing
still stands as a great second-go from a band that garnered so much attention for their immediately lovable debut. With their second record, the RAA make minor changes in their sound without losing the charm that accumulated them such appraisal in the first place.
This record's undeniable appeal once again lies in the magnetizing, heartfelt vocals of frontman Nils Edenloff. Right from the opening track of "Two Lovers", he showcases the unique singing voice and earnest story-telling that one would expect to hear from him. Toning down on some of the intense, wailing singing found on Hometowns
, Edenloff demonstrates a slightly improved and more seasoned voice on this album. The songwriting, although perhaps a little devoid of the agonizingly irresistible, hometown/heartbreak induced lyrical quality of their debut, still provides enough allure to win over the most hardened of hearts. Amy Cole maintains her role in sharing vocal duties with Nils, though perhaps to a slightly lesser extent. However, when the two voices operate together, the effect is nothing short of magical. "Stamp" is a particularly pleasing instance of this, with Cole's voice on one hand serving as an additional instrument for the song and harmonizing with Edenloff's leading wails on the other. "Good Night", the record's concluding track, emphasizes the duo's vocal excellence through hauntingly engaging harmonies that create a palpable sense of loss and heartache.
isn't exactly a forward step for the band. Although Hometowns
certainly was no source of incredible musical ingenuity, it maintained a fun, catchy and upbeat quality that truly engaged the listener. Most of this captivation stood on the incredibly dynamic drumming of Paul Banwatt, which undoubtedly served as the record's backbone. Wielding a rather simple drum-set, Banwatt still managed to jam so hard for the entirety of Hometowns
and maneuvered rhythms in such a way as to really bring the record together. Although his drum work on Departing
is still quite engaging at times, it no longer provides the same cohesive effect that it had on their debut. This may in part be a result of the moderately slowed-down nature of this record, which focuses less on the ardent, high-energy songs and instead showcases tracks with a generally softer, less severe character. Another musical adjustment made by The Rural Alberta Advantage
is a much less prevalent usage of the synthesized piano, which was such a common and essential feature of their debut. Some of the tracks on Departing
still utilize the piano as a key instrument, but none of them implement it as the recognizable force that it was on Hometowns
. It isn't necessarily a bad change for the band, just a minor adjustment of character that results in a slightly modified sound.
When all is said and done, Departing
stands as the sophomore effort that everybody wanted to hear from The Rural Alberta Advantage
. Ten tracks with the same zesty charm as their first record make for an almost equally enjoyable listening experience. Modest tweaks in the RAA's sound that focus more on softer, less impassioned tunes and the improved vocals of Nils Edenloff create another well constructed record from a dynamic trio. Departing
illustrates a band growing up and slowing down a little bit, yet still exhibiting their incredible potential to write and play the fun, catchy, and heartfelt songs that we are coming to expect from them.