Album Review: Rural Alberta Advantage, 'Mended with Gold'


The Rural Alberta Advantage - Mended with Gold
The Rural Alberta Advantage - Mended with Gold (© 2014 Saddle Creek Records.)

Kintsugi. It's a Japanese art form of repairing broken pottery by mending it back together with gold. The concept is about taking something broken and making it better than it was before while embracing the imperfect. Kintsugi is a metaphor for the new album by The Rural Alberta Advantage, and it's also the title, Mended with Gold.

It's the third album from the Canadian trio who, in previous records, have mulled the themes of anxiety, love (and the demise thereof), as well as the balance between city and country. That seems to continue on Mended with Gold. Anxiety still pops up in songs like "Terrified", "Runners in the Night" and "…on the Run." Part of this probably has to do with where most of the record was written: in a small, isolated cottage in the woods with a constant threat of black bears and wolves, an environment that contributed to the song "To Be Scared", with its lyric, "Ohhh, there's nothing to be scared of…"

And what would a RAA record be without a break-up song? Now, instead of being jolted at the sight of an ex's keys in an apartment (as was sung about in "Don't Haunt this Place" from their debut, Hometowns), the lyrics of "On the Rocks" seem to be less dramatic as a relationship ends: "Our hearts they were strong / they never made a sound / our love was on the rocks."

RAA also use their songs to tell stories of different Canadian towns and cities (continuing the groundwork established by the songs "Frank, AB" and "Edmonton" on Hometowns). On Mended with Gold, the balance between city and country life is contemplated in "This City". The album's tenth track, "Vulcan, AB", is about being stuck in a small city and stuck in a relationship that should end at any moment.

All of these themes — anxiety, love, place — point to going through some painful or difficult experience, and in the end, coming out a better person. Kintsugi.

RAA have also maintained their signature sound, availing themselves of the blend of Nils Edenlof's and Amy Cole's vocals over the precise pounding of Paul Banwatt's drums, and their combined ability to create tight, catchy folk-pop songs. The complement of Amy's and Nils' vocals on "On The Rocks" makes that song. "Terrified" is a rapid-fire combination of relentless drumming and strumming that mimics the heartbeat that probably inspired the song.

Mended with Gold is a beautiful record. Whatever experiences it took to write each song have created a collection worth repeated listens, and it gets better and better with every flip of the record. Better than it was before. Kintsugi.

What do you think of the album? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

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