The Albertans – New Age

written by: September 7, 2011
The Albertans New Age Album Cover Release Date: March 8, 2011


New Age has all the trappings of a hit indie-pop album — whistles and keys, fluttering riffs, cutesy “Oohs” and “Aahs” paired with offbeat lyrics and a male frontrunner with a high-pitched croon.

It’s a good record, but The Albertans’ list of sounds-like bands could fill a festival: New Pornographers, Stars, Ezra Furman and the Harpoons, a Disney version of Arcade Fire, The Dodos plus two women. New Age and its five Brooklyn-by-Vancouver makers are regrettably unoriginal, but unlike other indie-pop bands bobbing in the genre’s deluge, The Albertans are poised with plenty of potential. The players are there and their talent is evident, but on New Age, the band’s envelope is sealed tightly shut.

The album’s bookends, “Jackpot” and “New Age,” are the best of the lot — musically jubilant, with the band pushing through charmingly tangled melodies with distinct drum and bass lines. Both tracks are catchy, earnest and quirky — exactly what indie pop should be. “Megan” is fun and “Furniture” is lovely, and the addictive-as-hell chorus of “New Age” has the vocalists shouting, “Where are those indigo youth?” — whatever it means, the track begs to be a sing-a-long.

New Age is generally upbeat — if not in lyrics then in melody — with exceptions such as “The Wake,” a song about suicide with a delightful post-chorus guitar line, and the break-up song “May,” a somber solo by one of the two female vocalists typically supporting lead vocalist Joel Bravo, who has the gift of being a near-vocal twin to Dan Bejar (Destroyer, The New Pornographers). Then again, Bravo and The Albertans’ similarity to Bejar and The New Pornographers — both mixed-gender Canadian bands — could also be a curse for the young band, which already has trouble crafting a distinct listing for itself in the indie-pop classifieds.

The two Ditty Bops-like female vocalists, Alison Yip and Krystin Monaghan, work better on their own, as opposed to solely supporting Bravo on tracks such as “People Don’t Go.”

In the end, New Age leaves listeners with a sense that this is a good indie band that will long be stuck opening for a better indie band — an idea that would be instantly invalidated if the band goes outside its comfort zone. The album will be played in hip coffee shops, the band will make it on the festival circuit and its members will produce gig posters with hip owl graphics. (A conclusion made long before heading to the band’s Facebook page, where its profile picture is a black-and-white illustrated owl perching above some cursive typeface. Oof.) But all it would take is a little stretching of the legs — a little less tambourine and a little more ingenuity — to make the band a headliner.

The Albertans – New Age

  1. Jackpot
  2. The Wake
  3. Mila
  4. May
  5. Megan
  6. Okay Now
  7. People Don’t Go
  8. Furniture
  9. Mellow
  10. New Age