The Rural Alberta Advantage – Departing

written by: March 11, 2011
Release Date: March 1, 2011


It’s difficult to say why, but it’s certainly true: Canadian indie bands are better than the American variety. This trend gracefully continues with The Rural Alberta Advantage’s latest album, Departing.

The minimalistic three-piece from Toronto know its limits better than most bands hope to. They use basic chord progressions, light pianos and heartfelt vocals to forge a connection with the listener that’s pure. They don’t try to distract with over-the-top guitar solos or convoluted verses. They’re stripped down, basic and, most importantly, fucking great.

The Rural Alberta Advantage is a brilliantly balanced band. The members play to each other’s strengths without trying to outdo anyone.

Lead singer Nils Edenloff’s croons heartfelt and thought-provoking lyrical prose throughout Departing. Because of his imperfect and whiny voice, the flaws he sees in himself and his surroundings are more clearly highlighted throughout the album. Longing to be remembered and full of sadness at losing someone, Edenloff conveys a powerfully clear message.

Amidst quiet drums and a gentle keyboard on “North Star” he sings “When we hit the city limits, don’t forget me for a minute tonight.” The lyrics aren’t revolutionary in any way. But they’re real and relatable.

Amy Cole provides the backing vocals and keyboard on the album, which clearly exhibit the simplistic approach and attitude The Rural Alberta Advantage had when making the album.

The keyboard, along with the rest of the instruments, hold to a very basic time signature, which again drives home the point that the band wants the listener to focus on the lyrical dimensions. At the same time, the instruments are hardly forgettable. While the keys may not be the focus of the songs, they serve as a backbone and a constant support system.

Cole’s wailing vocals—possibly unintentionally—add a different side to the story Edenloff is trying to tell. Her gender is a serious advantage because of the added dimension and different perspective she brings. While he plays the lonely guy in the song she tells a different story with the same words: the story of the girl who feels the same way he does.

Paul Banwatt, the drummer, is the most talented member of the band. In between his tender penchant for basic high-hat-snare-bass combinations, he peppers complex fills that, while elaborate, don’t distract from the song’s basic premise.

It’s thoroughly impressive how the change in instrumental tone has such a profound impact on the feel and mood of the songs on Departing. “Tornado ’87” is an endlessly dark song that never stops digging deeper into Edenloff’s psyche, even if the lyrics don’t change. What starts as a folksy acoustic ballad evolves into a cryptic and introspective ode that shows Edenloff for what he really is, a remorseful and flawed individual: “I let you go, I let you go/I let you know that I hold you/Black sky comes to take you from me.”

The message across the album is steady, the vocals fit the sound of the band perfectly, and the instruments almost flawlessly characterize the feelings portrayed. Departing is the kind of album any band should be beaming with pride about.

The Rural Alberta Advantage – Departing tracklist:

  1. “Two Lovers”
  2. “The Breakup”
  3. “Under the Knife”
  4. “Muscle Relaxants”
  5. “North Star”
  6. “Stamp”
  7. “Tornado ’87”
  8. “Barnes’ Yard”
  9. “Coldest Days”
  10. “Good Night”