Skip to main content

The Rural Alberta Advantage

Today I put the spotlight on The Rural Alberta Advantage, a group I just became hip to recently and just saw over the weekend here in Indy at Radio Radio. The trio hails from Alberta, Canada, and is led by Nils Edenloff at the acoustic, with a keyboard/keybass player and a drummer. Simple, stripped-down, effective.

The best way I can describe their sound is to say that it's bass drum-driven, acoustic/electro folk. Edenloff sounds kind of like the Smashing Pumpkins' Billy Corgan, but minus the grunge sound. The emphasis here is definitely on Edenloff's singing/songwriting, and Paul Banwatt's right foot on the kick-drum. Though keyboardist Amy Cole adds a neat electro-pop sound with her synth work.

Lyrically, their sound comes off a bit Smashing Pumpkins-ish at times: angsty, gritty, looking back to the past with anger and longing. At least two (maybe more) of their songs are about natural disasters that befell Alberta, including "Tornado '87" and "Frank AB," neither of which I'd heard about before Saturday night. One of the highlights of the evening was when Edenloff slowed things down and played his version of the themesong to a popular Canadian children's T.V. show from the 80s, called "The Littlest Hobo," which sounded like a song that could've easily been written by this band.

RAA played all three of those on Saturday, including the track "Stamp" from their new album Departing (Saddle Creek), plus a good selection of tracks from their 2008 album Hometowns. Critically, their first album seems to have gotten a little bit better reviews than their latest cut. Having listened to both, I'd have to say I'm split. The combination of "Stamp" and "Tornado '87" make it hard for me to throw Departing under the bus like that.

If I had one major critique it would be this: something seems missing. At least from what I saw on Saturday, it seems like RAA is very much Edenloff's show, with two people supporting. Which seems a shame because Banwatt and Cole seem talented in their own rights. It's just something about the combination of the synth, the heavy drum-bass, and the acoustic, that makes for an uneven sound at times, maybe something that could be cleared up with the addition of a bass guitar?

Overall, however, these guys get a thumbs up in my book for fulfilling my main qualification: they rock, and rock hard. They kept the pace fast, kept the crowd up, and only once through the whole show did they fall back on the "one dude & a guitar" format that I tend to loathe.

If you missed them this time's going to be a while before they're back. They're leaving the country (probably gone by now) after their show in Cleveland, and heading overseas for a tour of the U.K. and Europe.

Oh, and lest I forget, they were opened up by Lord Huron, an originally Michigan-based group now out of L.A. Musically they're out of a different cloth than RAA, looking like L.A.-hipster barbie dolls and sounding like beachy, ethereal, space-folk. Not especially my thing, but I have to say these guys had a very tight, well-produced set which featured three guitars and two- and three-part harmonies, along with a theremin, of all things, bongo drums, and a melodica. Highlights of the set (and sorry, I don't know any of the songs) was a long, spacey, mesmerizing guitar interlude that almost put me in mind of Meddle-era Pink Floyd. Good stuff, guys.


Popular posts from this blog

New Yorker Fiction Review #151: "The Bog Girl" by Karen Russell

From the June 20 issue...

My loyal readers (if there are still any, which I doubt) will know I'm usually not a fan of Magical Realism, which, as you may also know, is Karen Russell's stock in trade. That said, there's nothing I love more than having my antipathy for magical realism shattered by an awesome story like "The Bog Girl."

Briefly, an Irish teenager discovers the body of a young woman who as been buried in a bog for over 2,000 years and begins to date her. What more do you need, right? If I'd read that one-line description somewhere else, and wasn't on a mission to review every New Yorker short story, I doubt I'd have read "The Bog Girl." But maybe I should start doing a George Costanza and do the opposite of everything I think I should do.

Where Russell succeeds here is in two main areas: 1.) Making us really love Cillian, the teenager who falls in love with the bog girl, and 2.) pulling the unbelievable trick making the characters…

Holiday Q&A, Volume 1

These questions come to us from Grace. Thanks for sending your questions!! Answers below:
What is the most thrilling mystery you have read and/or watched?
The Eiger Sanction (book and film) by Trevanian is what's coming to mind. International espionage. Mountain-climbing assassins. Evil albino masterminds. Sex. Not a bad combination. Warning, this is completely a "guy" movie, and the film (feat. Clint Eastwood) is priceless 70s action movie cheese. But in case that's your thing...
What's the deal with Narcos?
Narcos is a Netflix show about the rise and fall (but mostly the fall) of Columbian cocaine kingpin Pablo Escobar. Thus far there are two seasons of 10 episodes each. RIYL: The film Blow, starring Johnny Depp; the book Zombie City, by Thomas Katz; the movie Goodfellas; true crime; anything involving the drug trade. My brief review: Season 1 started out a bit slow and I know a bunch of people who never made it past the first few episodes. Some of the acting is a…

A Piece of Advice I Learned From My Grandfather

My grandfather was one of the most learned men I know. He read widely and voraciously, and not just in the sciences (he was a doctor); he loved politics, philosophy, and great literature as well. Whenever he finished a book he would write his thoughts about the book in the front cover and then sign and date it. To this day every once in a while I will open a book from my bookshelf or my mother's bookshelf, or at one of my family members' homes, and there will be my grandfather's handwriting. He was also a great giver of his books; if you remarked that you liked a particular one or wanted to read it, you were almost sure to take it home with you.

Reading is a very solitary pursuit but my grandfather was not a solitary person. He relished having family and friends around him which is convenient because he was blessed with a lot of both. And he carried out his intellectual life in a very "public" way as well. He was, in some ways, an intellectual evangelist. If he r…