The more I seek it out, the more I am discovering how much great music is coming out of Canada these days. The Rural Alberta Advantage is the latest I've added to my list, as their March released second album "Departing" finally made its way to my ears.
Coming off a mini-obsession with St. John's, Newfoundland's Hey Rosetta!, this Toronto based trio is a bit of a musical departure from the full arrangements I've been listening to. The Rural Alberta Advantage prefer stripped down arrangements that manage to lose none of their power in their sparseness. With Nils Edenloff on lead vocals and guitar, Amy Cole on backing vocals and keyboards and drummer Paul Banwatt, the lack of bass on many of these songs sticks out right away.
But songs like opener "Two Lovers", "Coldest Days" and "Under The Knife" are still wonderfully melodic and hold your attention as much as any overblown, overproduced "epic" track could. The band take the album away from acoustics and in a more rock direction on "Stamp" and "Muscle Relaxants". The keyboard driven "The Breakup" is a highlight, but the standout track here is "North Star", which opens with just Banwatt's beats, a lone piano and Edenloff's somber vocal. The song finally expands a bit in the last minute to get about as lush as you'll hear from The Rural Alberta Advantage.
Don't let the bare arrangements on much of their work fool you. The Rural Alberta Advantage grabs you instantly with their brand of indie rock and pop, with a wee bit of acoustic folk thrown in at times. Edenloff's vocals are unique and suit their music perfectly. Yet another band serving notice that the days of cracking jokes about Canadian music are long gone.
"Departing" was released in the U.S. March 1, 2011 on the Saddle Creek label.