Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Reviews:: The Rural Alberta Advantage Hometowns

Now, sometimes being a two-man shop has some disadvantages. Sure we can quote each other's reviews which gives us a sense of credibility, but sometimes we get our signals crossed and post about the same band on the same day. Call Freedom Williams, because that's a thing that makes me go hmmmmmmm.

Anyway, The Rural Alberta Advantage is probably the best unsigned band in Canada and it's actually pretty shocking that no label has picked up Hometowns yet. With all of the small labels snatching up any knock off or sound alike, the simple fact no one has taken a chance on one of the most unique bands I've heard in forever baffles me .

On the surface, you are hit with the trio's Neutral Milk Hotel pop and Nils Edenloff's detailed narratives of his Alberta roots. While it seems almost necessary to toss in a Sufjan reference when you talk about the subject matter, the final product couldn't be farther from one of the indie rock poster boy's releases. Instead of calculated, over thought, lush compositions, RAA prefers energetic, spontaneous, spare arrangements with just enough shocks and surprises to keep you guessing. And the power the trio delivers is astonishing.

While this is a project lead by Nils' Canadian fueled narratives and heavy strummed acoustic, it's the drumming that really attaches me to this project. When Boxer came out, I made reference to Bryan Devendorf's precision drumming, comparing it to a well trained fighter jabbing his opponent with punishing, quick hitting combinations. If I were to run with that analogy, then Paul Banwatt is standing on the school yard, swinging wildly hoping to inflict pain.

Well that might sound like a slight, it is said as a total compliment. His drumming heightens the excitement created by Nils narratives and the duo play off each other beautifully. Nowhere is this more clear than the chaotic Luciana. The crashing cymbals and the strain of Nils voice builds and builds. When Nils sings, "there's a fire in my chest, that will extinguish when your dead" the kick of the bass drum sounds like it's being played on your solar plexis and foreshadows an explosion of sound. You get excited, waiting for it to happen, and then you are hit with a beautiful horn section that drives the song to the finish.

The nice thing is the builds, starts and stops give Amy Cole room to work and add her subtle touches. Whether its ear catching instrumentation or well placed harmonies, Cole seems to add the perfect element needed to finish the arrangement and fine tune the rough edges. The Ballad of RAA has an electronic back beat that acts as the heartbeat of the song. As you settle into the pulse, they add quick hitting drums that battle Nils' voice for your ear, but never crowd the space. Each element is clear and powerful, and over the course of the three and a half minutes the band adds a nice, simple xylophone and a well earned, slow breakdown to close out the song.

The most amazing aspect of this record is despite the frantic energy and detailed, thought provoking narratives, they never veer off course. The ebbs and flows grow and retract perfectly, as if they can sense your involvement in the song. Don't Haunt This Place uses another great drum line, but the arrangement includes slow drawn strings and Cole's nice harmonies that adds a softer side to the song. Sleep All Day is a terrific electro-pop song that could be the launching point for this band, despit ethe fact it's not indicative of the sounds they usually play.

Either way, between Shane and I gushing about this band, you get the idea. They are going to be a band that everyone can latch onto. All to often bloggers try to say they listened to a band before they were huge and if you want to say that about the RAA, you'd be wise to pick up Hometowns fast. Once it gets out and heard, Canadian indie rock fans might just have a new favorite band.
[MP3]:: Don't Haunt This Place
[MP3]:: Sleep All Day

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Posted at 11:10 AM by ack :: 1 comments

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At 11:31 AM, Anonymous matthew did sayeth:

It's definitely a very good album, but I don't know about them being the best unsigned band in Canada -- not when Entire Cities also have that status! As you may have noticed from my review of the EC album, I'm currently thinking it's one of my favourite albums ever, whereas the RAA album is just one of the year's best...both are pretty great bands with great albums, though!


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