Rural Alberta Advantage: Departing

I'm going to start this review with a story.  Years and years ago, probably in the late nineties, I spent a good chunk of my hard-earned money on a collection of CDs.  I got home, loaded them all up in our stereo, and read a book while they cycled through. 

I found myself digging one or two albums that I can't even remember now, while completely overlooking Kyuss' Sky Valley, an album that almost single-handedly changed how I listened to music.  Thankfully, I realized my mistake, and became a Kyuss junkie for a good three years.  I pursued new converts with the same fervor that shaven-headed idiots go after busy people at an airport.

But that's another story.  One that I will most likey never think of again. 

The moral of all this is that when you purchase music in large quantities, you sometimes miss gems in favour of albums that have a bit more polish yet less content.  Such was nearly the case for The Rural Alberta Advantage's sophomore album Departing, which got a few plays on my stereo before being abandoned in favour of Mother Mother's Eureka and the Cave Singers' No Witch, both albums that, despite being loger, really have less content than Departing.

(Cue angry replies about the Mother Mother album.  For the record, I don't dislike the album, but the jury's still out on whether I actually like it.  Long story, there.)

Anyways, Departing is one of those albums that starts off slow, and then turns into this hyperactive rock album that rarely lets up.  It has an almost punk-rock aesthetic - short songs, boiled down to a few core riffs, without the overproduced nature that can often plague rock albums.  This is an album that starts off with an acoustic ballad, and then quickly changes tempo into stripped-down, energetic rock reminiscent of a simpler form of the Arcade Fire.  

The funny part about the whole thing is that the band isn't from Alberta.  They're actually based out of Toronto.  That being said, the frontman, Nils Edenloff (who reminds me of the Smashing Pumpkins' Billy Corgan, only much less of a douche), did grow up in Fort MacMurray... one of those little towns in northern Canada that smug islanders such as myself only speak of with our noses raised firmly in the air. 

They start the album off with a touching yet slightly threatening love song in "Two Lovers" ("I hope your heart is good and strong/if you find yourself in my arms"), and then speed up into bouncing rock with "The Breakup" that almost offers a lyrical counterpoint.  We then get slower piano-driven pieces like "North Star" that beg for attention ("if you hit the city limits/don't forget me for a minute tonight").   And then there's "Stamp", the  first single, which has a hectic drum beat that is almost as infectious as the Ebola virus, though definitely much prettier.  Not to mention a hilarious music video.

The second half of the album is perhaps a bit less hectic than the first half, though it ends with the slightly folksy "Good Night", which of course will draw references to the Beatles' White Album, which ended with a song of the same title - and considering the nearly pure white cover of RAA's album, I have to wonder if it's all deliberate?

All in all, the whole thing comes off as this energetic mix of boiled down rock music that keeps up a steady energetic tempo.  However, it does burn out rather quickly - the entire collection is less than forty minutes long, and probably closer to half an hour. 

In short, pick it up.  By itself.  Because if you lose out on hearing this album just because you happened to buy a new Bon Jovi album on the same day, you're going to miss out on something amazing. 

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