The Rural Alberta Advantage are the epitome of the scrappy band done good. After two critically acclaimed records (Hometowns in 2008, Departing in 2011), a devoted fan base and a home on Paper Bag Records, it bears wondering what the indie folk threesome have left to bring to the table. As it turns out, quite a lot; the band's latest release, Mended With Gold, is a satisfyingly anthemic work wrapped around a highly emotional core that is distinctively — and eternally — theirs.
A caveat: Those coming for the twangy, almost idiosyncratic nuggets buried in the band's debut record won't be disappointed, exactly, but this is a different RAA now, a bigger, bolder and wiser beast. This sensibility is quickly established with album opener "Our Love," which slams into us with keening emotional and dynamic intensity. Mighty drummer Paul Banwatt, whose presence felt a tad underused on Departing, is out here in full force, particularly on songs like "On the Rocks," with its almost dizzying syncopation and pummelling toms. The interplay between Banwatt's technical assault, singer/guitarist Nils Edeloff's wistful tenor and multi-instrumentalist Amy Cole's ghostly harmonies is the magical formula that keeps sucking the band's fans back in, and on Mended With Gold, it's been taken to magnificent heights. In particular, Cole and Edeloff's vocals soar to points that seem nearly impossible. (On the quietly mournful "To Be Scared," Cole gets a rare moment to sing alone, and her voice rises to the rafters, sweet and painful as a ghost's.) Coupled with Edeloff's world-weary intonations of love and loss, they provide that exquisite ache, release and catharsis; the aural equivalent of prodding an old bruise. (Paper Bag)