Author: Chris Parker
Toronto trio Rural Alberta Advantage's breakout 2009 debut, Hometowns, was surprisingly muscular for all its folk undertones and atmospheric sheen. Sound swirls like flurries about frontman Nils Edenloff's nasal, impassioned croon, which recalls Jeff Mangum's craggy vocals. The warm textures and anxious bristle are keyed to extraordinary drummer Paul Banwatt, whose rattling traps drive the songs more than the melodies. Keyboardist Amy Cole's girlish harmonies and Edenloff's slashing riffs echo the bittersweet vibe of Edenloff's pained paeans to leaving home and losing love.If the debut's bracing sound felt very dynamic, it also inhabited a narrow plane. That opens wider on new album Departing, as its elements are in better balance. Banwatt's drumming, while still propulsive, doesn't dominate the soundstage, and the arrangements move and breath easier after Hometown's sprint-like melancholy intensity. Greater diversity in approach and emotional pitch helps the entire album feel more vigorous and vibrant?not unlike this bill, which finds Rural Alberta Advantage sharing the stage with a couple of other promising young upstarts.