By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
By Alice Laussade
By Scott Reitz
Toronto trio Rural Alberta Advantage's breakout 2009 debut, Hometowns, was surprisingly muscular for all its folk undertones and atmospheric sheen. Sound swirls like flurries about frontman Nils Edenloff's nasal, impassioned croon, which recalls Jeff Mangum's craggy vocals. The warm textures and anxious bristle are keyed to extraordinary drummer Paul Banwatt, whose rattling traps drive the songs more than the melodies. Keyboardist Amy Cole's girlish harmonies and Edenloff's slashing riffs echo the bittersweet vibe of Edenloff's pained paeans to leaving home and losing love.
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If the debut's bracing sound felt very dynamic, it also inhabited a narrow plane. That opens wider on new album Departing, as its elements are in better balance. Banwatt's drumming, while still propulsive, doesn't dominate the soundstage, and the arrangements move and breath easier after Hometown's sprint-like melancholy intensity. Greater diversity in approach and emotional pitch helps the entire album feel more vigorous and vibrant—not unlike this bill, which finds Rural Alberta Advantage sharing the stage with a couple of other promising young upstarts.
Maps & Atlases' energetic art-pop moves to heavily syncopated Afropop rhythms beneath a dreamy kaleidoscopic horizon. Moving behind the proggy intricacy of their first two EPs, last year's debut LP, Perch Patchwork, still winds through odd colorful avenues, abetted by great melody and pop craftsmanship. Meanwhile Miniature Tigers exchange the fey breezy charms of their indie-pop debut for trippy Animal Collective-style flamboyance.
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