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Arts in Review

Rural Alberta Advantage bewilder with The Wild

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The Wild is the latest offering from the Canadian folk-rock three-piece, The Rural Alberta Advantage. The wait for this album began last winter when the band put out a single, “White Lights.” Rather than launching a record shortly after, The RAA hit the road for what the band’s website describes as “a unique set of shows.” The band credits this tour with aiding strongly in the writing process of The Wild, and allowing the band to road test some of the songs before the recording process began. After almost a year since their first single came out, The RAA launched their fourth studio album, The Wild, on October 13.

The Wild demonstrates exactly what The RAA does best, while offering up new sounds the band has not explored in their previous three releases. Tunes like “Beacon HillandWhite Lights exude the band’s typical mixture of feverish drumming, intense four chord folk-rock acoustic guitar, dazzling but not overbearing keyboards, and bright vocals provided by lead singer and guitar player Nils Edenloff. This record is the first to feature Robin Hatch on keyboards, bass pedals, and backup vocals since the departure of Amy Cole last year. Despite the change in lineup, the band’s sound is largely intact, with the only noticeable difference being Hatch’s brighter and more prominent voice, compared to Cole’s softer melodies and coos.

Paul Banwatt’s drumming continues to be spot-on, and provides an unmistakable texture that makes tracks like “Beacon Hill” and “Wild Grin” feel like a boiler about to explode. Fans of percussion may find this album worth listening to for Banwatt’s drumming alone. Edenoff has stepped up his guitar game a bit with the addition of some intricate and percussive finger picking styles on songs like “Bad Luck Again” and “Brother.” Hatch’s synth parts on this record are extremely powerful; from the dark and brooding percussion and bass break towards the end of “Brother,” to the screaming lo-fi tones heard on “Wild Grin,” the synth never gets lost in the mix, and is often given the chance to shine through where needed. Lyrics follow The RAA’s typical style, and almost never feel too cliché or boring, especially when delivered in Edenloff’s signature meandering cadence and rhythm.

Songs like “Toughen Upand “Wild Grin” show off a more electronic side to the band, with a strong focus on omnipresent droning keyboards. This attempt to freshen things up is met with mixed success. Where “Wild Grin” is victorious in presenting a more electronically-focused song, the fifth track, and latest single off this record, “Toughen Up” falls flat on its face. This song has a pretty generic alternative (and at some times even pop) structure that left a bad taste in my mouth. Coupled with the fact that the song moves way too slowly and contains one of the cringiest backup lyrics I’ve heard, makes this easily the worst track on the record.

Some listeners may argue that this record lacks consistency, or a strong theme. I would be inclined to agree. However, I think The RAA has done exactly what they set out to accomplish in taking the music to the fans. The Wild has the very concept of ever-changing conditions, trials, and tribulations of a long journey baked into its ethos. Overall, this record is a strong and effective follow-up to 2014’s Mended With Gold, and what it lacks in consistency when compared to its predecessor, it makes up for in attention to detail, and pure drive.

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