Mended With Gold by The Rural Alberta Advantage album review: A plague of beardy boys with acoustic guitars, a copy of Harvest Moon and reams of earnest odes started to spread like wildfire a few years back. Outbreaks of Mumford-itis across the globe caused sales of gingham shirts and mandolins to rise through the roof and every uber hipster burk in town started wandering around with a banjo on his back. The revolution had arrived and it was wrapped in trad, folksy, campfire whimsy and dressed like interns doing work experience for Farmer Giles. Step forward The Rural Alberta Advantage to liven things up a bit and give us indie folk version 2.0 -an altogether more palatable experience free of flat caps, hoedowns and stand-up bass.
The Rural Alberta Advantage originally formed when Nils Edenloff (vocals, guitar)and Paul Banwatt (drums) were running an open mic night in Toronto and performing to an empty bar with their only real regular Amy Cole (keyboards), the trio ended up getting really rather good. Shows across town started to fill up, debut album Hometowns (2009) was championed by emusic and a performance supporting Grizzly Bear at SXSW led to a deal with Conor Oberst’s Saddle Creek label.
Third album Mended With Gold grows their sound from a backroom strum along into pounding, choral, reach-for-the-heavens anthems, full of titanic crescendos and big ol’ bursting chorus’. Their homespun nostalgia for idyllic tumbledown Canada is turned from twee daydreaming into a glorious, cinematic monster and this ‘scrappy indie band’ (their words) brews up frantic celestial hymns of giant proportion.
Partly written by Edenloff alone in a cottage out in the wilds with black bears roaming the mountainside, the lonely, paranoid madness adds another edge. His picture postcard imagery comes with beasties and demons prowling at the door but builds into rousing, bellowing alt-Americana on stand out tracks Terrified, Runners In The Night and All We’ve Ever Known. It’s no small feat for a humble three piece to generate such a glorious storm, which sounds as colossal as Arcade Fire at their most rampant and as warm and unassuming as Okkervill River.
At their more dainty, stripped back moments The Build and To Be Scared recall the elegiac beauty of Bon Iver, Fleet Foxes and Postal Service, whilst 44/33 and Vulcan, AB channel Band of Horses and The Strokes into eerie alt country, new wave lullabies. It’s a messy, sonically huge record that towers above most of the folksy tin-can detritus and deserves a lend of your ears.