Paper Bag /Saddle Creek Records
Rural Alberta Advantage
Four album’s deep, the Rural Alberta Advantage know their strengths, and play to them well. Their latest releases is teeming with fiery folk guitars and disintegrating vocal lines just trying to get their emotions across right. This results in some truly explosive tracks with a natural feel and some intimate tracks that show a more vulnerable side of the band. However for anyone looking for deeper writing on the whole, the album will prove a tad derivative.
With rustic tinges, “Beacon Hill” starts the album with a harsh burn of energy that is bright and refreshing. As the band ride this emotion higher and higher, their harmonies come together in sweet moments that take the rush of sound even further. “Bad Luck Again” flutters along with a clicking beat and righteous sense of unrest in its anxious delivery. While emotionally a strong track on the record, it’s hard not to feel like it’s lacking something fresh.
“Dead Alive” burns in lo-fi grit, as it pushes dark and dangerous tones through its raspy vocals until they’re almost in tatters. The little synth moments both elevate the creepy mood while adding a lightly Celtic touch to the song that works surprisingly well in its folk roots. With its spiralling guitar lines, “Brother” builds momentum that’s quickly amplified by its stomping percussion and ecstatic vocals. Strongest in its big bursts and finer sonic details, it does at times feel like it needs to push even further to be great.
They infuse a lot more modern tones on “Toughen Up,” bringing in synths and light touches of electronic life for a much richer sonic variety. Inherently one of the more pop-driven tracks on the record, it’s more natural tones make it feel like the intersection of Future Islands and Canadian folk rock. Instantly addictive in its simple guitar hook, “White Lights” is so earnest and lovely that it effortlessly pulls you in. Even against the harsher vocal moments, the track’s slow build towards its chorus makes sure you’re fully invested before it cranks everything to a screech.
“Alright” takes brutally honest lyrics of the wrongs we wish we could right, circling its melodies for an enthralling loop to carry listeners. While it has a some amazing peaks throughout the track, it once again feels all too familiar to stand out in the long run. The sublime drum sounds and guitar hook of “Selfish Dreams” however are an infectious pair that pave the way for the equally smooth vocal lines. The weight the band puts into the choruses make each line feel all the more important and give a real punch to the overall energy of the song.
Simple and fun, “Wild Grin” is fury on tape, and its rush of huge melodies never ease up on the breakneck speed they carry the song with. A clear standout for live shows, the track may ultimately feel a little repetitive and brash on record. Relinquishing the past, the band show a truly personal and reflective side on “Letting Go,” holding onto tenderness for as long they can. This works out well as the most intense moments of the song really make you feel the anger and broken feelings that come in right before we move past difficult times.
Words by Owen Maxwell