The Rural Alberta Advantage
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The Rural Alberta Advantage


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This band has not uploaded any videos



"Zaphod Beeblebrox, Ottawa, ON ::: February 17"

... Like a well-oiled threshing machine, the RAA, in matching red uniforms, ripped through their catchy and tight indie anthems with a nice fervour. Moving breathlessly through their new album, Hometowns, their intricately composed pop songs effortlessly got people moving and dancing and, really, their entire set was a sheer delight. Even more charming was the encore, where the RAA disconnected, climbed down from the stage and serenaded the audience, who were appropriately in awe. ....

- March 2008
( - Exclaim!

"Reviews:: The Rural Alberta Advantage Hometowns"

Now, sometimes being a two-man shop has some disadvantages. Sure we can quote each other's reviews which gives us a sense of credibility, but sometimes we get our signals crossed and post about the same band on the same day. Call Freedom Williams, because that's a thing that makes me go hmmmmmmm.

Anyway, The Rural Alberta Advantage is probably the best unsigned band in Canada and it's actually pretty shocking that no label has picked up Hometowns yet. With all of the small labels snatching up any knock off or sound alike, the simple fact no one has taken a chance on one of the most unique bands I've heard in forever baffles me .

On the surface, you are hit with the trio's Neutral Milk Hotel pop and Nils Edenloff's detailed narratives of his Alberta roots. While it seems almost necessary to toss in a Sufjan reference when you talk about the subject matter, the final product couldn't be farther from one of the indie rock poster boy's releases. Instead of calculated, over thought, lush compositions, RAA prefers energetic, spontaneous, spare arrangements with just enough shocks and surprises to keep you guessing. And the power the trio delivers is astonishing.

While this is a project lead by Nils' Canadian fueled narratives and heavy strummed acoustic, it's the drumming that really attaches me to this project. When Boxer came out, I made reference to Bryan Devendorf's precision drumming, comparing it to a well trained fighter jabbing his opponent with punishing, quick hitting combinations. If I were to run with that analogy, then Paul Banwatt is standing on the school yard, swinging wildly hoping to inflict pain.

Well that might sound like a slight, it is said as a total compliment. His drumming heightens the excitement created by Nils narratives and the duo play off each other beautifully. Nowhere is this more clear than the chaotic Luciana. The crashing cymbals and the strain of Nils voice builds and builds. When Nils sings, "there's a fire in my chest, that will extinguish when your dead" the kick of the bass drum sounds like it's being played on your solar plexis and foreshadows an explosion of sound. You get excited, waiting for it to happen, and then you are hit with a beautiful horn section that drives the song to the finish.

The nice thing is the builds, starts and stops give Amy Cole room to work and add her subtle touches. Whether its ear catching instrumentation or well placed harmonies, Cole seems to add the perfect element needed to finish the arrangement and fine tune the rough edges. The Ballad of RAA has an electronic back beat that acts as the heartbeat of the song. As you settle into the pulse, they add quick hitting drums that battle Nils' voice for your ear, but never crowd the space. Each element is clear and powerful, and over the course of the three and a half minutes the band adds a nice, simple xylophone and a well earned, slow breakdown to close out the song.

The most amazing aspect of this record is despite the frantic energy and detailed, thought provoking narratives, they never veer off course. The ebbs and flows grow and retract perfectly, as if they can sense your involvement in the song. Don't Haunt This Place uses another great drum line, but the arrangement includes slow drawn strings and Cole's nice harmonies that adds a softer side to the song. Sleep All Day is a terrific electro-pop song that could be the launching point for this band, despit ethe fact it's not indicative of the sounds they usually play.

Either way, between Shane and I gushing about this band, you get the idea. They are going to be a band that everyone can latch onto. All to often bloggers try to say they listened to a band before they were huge and if you want to say that about the RAA, you'd be wise to pick up Hometowns fast. Once it gets out and heard, Canadian indie rock fans might just have a new favorite band.

-Tuesday, February 19, 2008
( - Herohill (

"This week's feature: The Rural Alberta Advantage"


Hometowns, like Michigan or Illinoise, is a near-perfect musical travelogue, and suggests very big things are in store for The Rural Alberta Advantage..


About a month ago, when I was looking at the release schedule for 2008, there were few albums I was looking forward to more than Hometowns, the debut full-length from The Rural Alberta Advantage. That may sound like an exaggeration, but I can honestly say that it's not. After all, I loved the band's first EP, and I'd listened to it enough times that I was getting antsy to hear something new. This anticipation wasn't helped much by the fact that I've seen them live several times over the last year and a half; each time they played new songs, and each time those songs all sounded sufficiently awesome that I couldn't help but raise my expectations for their new album, whenever it was to be released.

So now that it's here, the question (for me, at least) is: does it live up to those expectations?

On one small count, the answer is no. The RAA's best song is called "Good Night", and it's a quiet set-closer for which, in concert, the band walks into the audience and performs literally unplugged, with only an acoustic guitar as accompaniment. That song, unfortunately, isn't on Hometowns (though this is understandable, since it would've been hard to capture on record just how moving an experience it can be).

Its absence, however, is the only way in which Hometowns disappoints. In every other respect, it's a great album, one that's equal parts Neutral Milk Hotel-style pop (largely due to the fact frontman Nils Edenloff's vocals sound a little like those of Jeff Mangum) and Sufjan-esque history lesson (as Edenloff tells the story of his home province).

Every single track is a testament to the fact the band knows how to write emotionally engaging songs that are also instantly memorable. "Frank, AB", for example, movingly tells the story of a town buried under a landslide, while "The Ballad of The RAA" is a combination travelogue/love song to Alberta. "The Dethbridge In Lethbridge" shows that The RAA are able to retain the balance even when things get noisy and chaotic, while at the other end of the spectrum, "Sleep All Day" is like the greatest song The Postal Service never wrote (albeit only in a world where Ben Gibbard and Jimmy Tamborello injected a dose of twangy pop into their music).

What makes Hometowns really come together, though, is the fact that the band themselves are incredibly tight. While Edenloff's vocals and narratives are the undeniable focal point of the album, he's backed by some gorgeous harmonies from Amy Cole, and spectacularly solid drumming from Paul Banwatt (who also, it should be noted, drums for electro-popper -- and newest Paper Bag Records signee -- Woodhands). The trio have amazing chemistry, and there's not a moment on here where they don't sound like a single, multitalented organism.

In other words, yes, Hometowns lives up to my expectations, and then some. It's a must-hear album, and hopefully one that signals the start of a long, productive career for The Rural Alberta Advantage.

-Tuesday, February 12, 2008
( - i(heart)music (

"The Ballad of The RAA"

It's still unclear to me if all three members of The Rural Alberta Advantage are ex-pats from the Princess Province (that's the nickname, really) or just songwriter Nils Edenloff but whichever it is, they've all embraced his upbringing and experiences which inform every nook and cranny of their debut full-length, Hometowns.

Edenloff's lyrics are rich with tales of Alberta both from the personal perspective of his upbringing in the northern region of the province and his wistful reminiscences of such from his new home in Toronto and from a more historical one with tales of its history such as the rockslide that buried the town in "Frank, AB" and frequently intertwining the two. The personalized historical travelogue is a concept that's been used to great effect by Sufjan Stevens but the similarities end on paper - where Stevens' projects are lushly orchestrated and more than a little precious, The RAA favours an aesthetic that's spare, dry and a little brash. If you were to remix the record and pull every track besides Edenloff's plaintive, Jeff Mangum-esque vocals and crashing acoustic guitar, it wouldn't sound miles away from the finished product.

But those miles - or the few inches travel for the faders on the mixing board - are a crucial distance for within them lies the real magic of the record. Most songs are built around Edenloff but the contributions of his bandmates - drummer Paul Banwatt and vocalist/keyboardist Amy Cole - can't be understated. Banwatt's drumming brings just the right amount of energy, forcing the songs out of the folky vein they might otherwise settle into without overpowering them (though letting the folk in where appropriate) and Cole's sweet harmonies are the ideal counterpoint to Edenloff's rough edges. Add in the extra instrumental touches - the bright flourish of a trumpet, the low swell of a cello, the sleepy whirr of a combo organ - perfectly placed like colourful landmarks out the window of a long road trip, the sort you only see for a few seconds in passing but leave an indelible impression in your memory, and you've got an album that's simple and simply wonderful.

Hometowns is still seeking distribution so there's no precise release date at the moment but the band are setting out on a east coast tour starting tomorrow in my own hometown of Waterloo, Ontario and bringing a little bit of the prairies to the Maritimes over the next week and a bit. Their next Toronto show isn't until March 27 at the Drake as part of this year's Pitter Patter Festival. I Heart Music also gushed about the record this week, and has a copy to give away.

-Wednesday, February 13, 2008
( - Chromewaves (

"John Sakamoto's Anti-Hit List"

"In the Summertime"

There is much to commend this melancholy ballad (it's most definitely not a cover of the ancient Mungo Jerry hit, for any of you old enough to be wondering), but we're particularly taken by the way the drums enter abruptly, stick around for a few seconds, then lapse into silence. It's like witnessing an introvert work up the nerve to overcome his social condition before beating a hasty retreat. Part of the first full-length release by the Toronto-based trio of Paul Banwatt, Amy Cole and Nils Edenloff. (From Hometowns,

-February 2, 2008 - The Toronto Star

"Best EPs of 2006 ::: 2006.12.26"

2. Rural Alberta Advantage's self-titled EP

I didn't catch it back when I reviewed The RAA a month ago, but a friend remarked on hearing them that they make some amazingly good Neutral Milk Hotel-style indie pop. I'll just go with that description from now on.
- By: matthew, i(heart)music (

"The Rural Alberta Advantage ::: 2007.03.08"

The Rural Alberta Advantage



The first time I saw the name The Rural Alberta Advantage it made me furious. Why? Not because I failed to believe that there was indeed an advantage to be garnered from living in rural Alberta, but because it was written on a clean white desk notepad in 4-inch pencil scrawl.

The name intrigued me however, as I actually tried to understand what the allure of rural Alberta might be. Did it have to do with the landscape? The oil sands? The tar pits encasing prehistoric heroes from my childhood? Numerous burning effigies of Stephen Harper? Numerous life-sized supporters of Stephen Harper?

Alas, curiosity got the better of me, not to mention the fact that every day that went by meant again having to look at the unsightly display of vandalism on my beautiful music library desk, so I decided to ask for a copy myself.

“Rush Apart” is a nice opening track, complete with clap-alongs and pulsating kick-drum. There are elements of country in this song, which then get lost in the maelstrom that develops in its middle and carries to the end. You can also hear an uncanny similarity in vocal style to that of Jeff Magnum of Neutral Milk Hotel. “The Dethbridge to Lethbridge” is a song about the loneliness and sense of loss that you feel when you leave your hometown. What is most endearing about this song isn’t its content, which is straightforward enough—think Hidden Cameras circa Mississauga Goddamn—but rather the drumming and other punkish elements. “Sleep All Day” is a really nice song: there is a great atmospheric keyboard that opens everything up—and again with those drums!

The next song, “Four Night Rider”, continues this theme but also adds the bouncy-funness of the Hidden Cameras and “Edmonton”, which follows, hit me the same way. It is a bit depressing and sad, telling the tale of leaving home and friends for glory in the big city. The song also has unbelievable drum work (really, you should check it out if for nothing else) and, within it, the album reaches its climax as far as instrumentation and lyrics go. This is clearly some sort of delicious hybrid of indie, rock, dance, and country—and I cannot get enough of it.

The Rural Alberta Advantage are an amazing band with a lot of promise. They stitch together some pretty diverse elements very naturally, and in doing so, manage to create a vocal style that people have been waiting for since Neutral Milk Hotel disappeared, and a musical style that combines both the Hidden Cameras’ dance potential, and Jon-Rae’s Western Canadian confessional songs.

Now stop writing on my desk, you freaks!
- By Adam Smith, The Argosy (

"Their Advantage"

Nils Edenloff credits his band's name to Alberta pride. That, and a chance remark his brother made in an e-mail sent from Edenloff's former home province.

The Toronto-based Edenloff admits his move from Alberta to Ontario five years ago can now be seen as very much bucking the trend. Today, it seems all Canadians dream of experiencing The Rural Alberta Advantage.

"I know," Edenloff says with a mock sigh. "A lot of my friends moved to Toronto around the same time I did, and I guess we sort of lost out on that gamble. We talk to old friends there now and they're making fistfuls of cash."

Edenloff, however, wanted no such lucrative lifestyle; he was a musician.

Alberta's loss, as it turns out. By joining forces some three years ago with non-westerners Amy Cole and Paul Banwatt, Edenloff found his own reward as a purveyor of the sort of folk/country-tinged pop songs that may sound to his old friends a lot like the Southern Ontario advantage.

Sparse arrangements, disarming harmonies and hum-able melodies abound on the trio's five-song eponymous CD. And, according to Edenloff, there are more where those came from.

"There's a lot of stuff we've had in the set for a while, that we want to put on an album," Edenloff says. "Right now, that is the focus: To get that recording finished and do some shows behind it."

A modest goal. But one that is ultimately more rewarding than making fistfuls of cash, no?

"We got played on CBC Radio 3 and had people in Sweden writing to us to ask, 'Where can we get your stuff?' To us, that's some form of making it. That's success."

July 25, 2007 - By Allan Wegney, SUN MEDIA

"Getting an Advantage ::: 2006.11.27"

With a name like The Rural Alberta Advantage, you might expect this Toronto trio to have at least a hint of country music to them. And to some extent, you'd be correct, at least as far as their debut EP goes. Album opener "Rush Apart", for example, almost sounds readymade for a hoedown, as frontman Nils Edenloff sings with the hint of a twang over top of a pretty straightforward country tune.

But the moment second track "The Dethbridge In Lethbridge" hits, it's pretty obvious that country is only one small aspect of their sound. For one thing, Edenloff also possesses an incredibly angry, desperate howl, and for another the tune is as much cowpunk as cowpoke. Similarly, songs like "Sleep All Day" and "Four Night Rider" are more electropop than anything else, with keyboardist Amy Cole and drummer Paul Banwatt tempering Edenloff's folkier leanings with Postal Service-esque music and interesting, inventive beats. It makes for an excellent EP, and it suggests that The Rural Alberta Advantage could have some really great things in store for them. - By: matthew, i(heart)music (


The Rural Alberta Advantage - s/t EP (2006)
The Rural Alberta Advantage - Hometowns (2008)



The Rural Alberta Advantage are :::
Paul Banwatt, Amy Cole and Nils Edenloff

The Rural Alberta Advantage play indie-rock songs about hometowns and heartbreak, born out of images from growing up in Central and Northern Alberta. They sing about summers in the Rockies and winters on the farm, ice breakups in the spring time and the oil boom’s charm, the mine workers on compressed, the equally depressed, the city’s slow growth and the country’s wild rose, but mostly the songs just try to embrace the advantage of growing up in Alberta.