Playing Sounds from the Other City
It seems that, more than anything else, it’s vocalist of a band that can split opinion almost instantly. Some find the estuary English drawl of Kate Nash enthralling, others think that Grizzly Bear only find pretension when they’re hitting their vocal harmonies whilst I’ve heard Gareth of Los Campesinos! dismissed as ‘too whiney’ on more than one occasion. It’s even been the focal point of a band’s draw, with Clap your hands say Yeah gaining much of their charm from the shrill yelps and awkward crooning of frontman Alec Ounsworth. Similarly,The Rural Alberta advantage have there own unorthadox vocalist in Nils Edenloff. With a voice pitched somewhere between a shrill cry and a gruff woodsman, it’s one of many reasons to fall in love with the band.
Though now based in Toronto, they base most of their work on growing up in Alberta, and their sound is one that reflects their un-urbane beginnings. Comparisons to Neutral Milk Hotel have been thrown about, but there’s a lot more that’s unique to the band than that. Formed in 2005 their first record, Hometowns, was put out by the ever-reliable Saddle Creek records three years later, and they’ve set about steadily growing their fanbase ever since. The strange thing is that it hasn’t happened quicker, given the move from landfill indie to music based more in alt-country and folk by the masses. Of course, the radio-friendly tones of Kings of Leon couldn’t be further from the majesty that runs throughout RAA’s 13 track debut. The brilliant thing is how much of a complete record they managed to create, from the furious, marching rhythm of The Dethbridge in Lethbridge to the almost The Antlers-esque tones of Frank, AB. Many other bands treading this ground may have fallen into the bland insincerity that the likes of Jet have consistently tried to push, but the threesome manage to sound refreshing and honest throughout.
Next month sees them approach British shores, and it’d be a shame if you missed one of the great lost gems of the past few years. Here’s a few of their songs if you aren’t yet convinced, both taken from Hometowns.
The Rural Alberta Advantage – Don’t Haunt This Place (download)
The Rural Alberta Advantage – Frank, AB (download)