#2 on the 2011 Musical Bacon Calendar
Departing by the Rural Alberta Advantage
This was one of the hardest decisions ever. Number 2 or number 1? Which is it? As I’ve said in other places during the countdown, this has been a very strange year for music in general, and my inability to assign a difinitive #1 album for the year is simply par for the course.
Any one of the Top 5 albums could have easily been #1, but as of right now, today, I’m confident in my choices. Tomorrow I may not feel the same, but I’m ok with that. Here at #2 is the Rural Alberta Advantage. You may remember the RAA from such lists as the 2009 Musical Advent Calendar, where I ranked the band’s debut album at #6. Back then, I claimed that the band was “the best new band of 2009”:
Believe it or not, what you’re hearing is the best new band of 2009. It may not sound like a lot to you right now, but mark my words: 2010 will be all about this band, the Rural Alberta Advantage. Well, at least in the indie rock world that I inhabit, these guys are going to get huge.
And then on a later entry that year, I continued:
Given that I called the Rural Alberta Advantage, who’s debut album Hometowns was #6 on the calendar, the best new band of 2009, I feel like I need to explain why I ranked These Four Walls higher in the countdown, but didn’t give We Were Promised Jetpacks the honor of “best new band.” It’s fairly simple: they made a great album, but I have not seen any evidence that they can do it again. With the RAA, their live show had numerous new, unrecorded songs that were quite good and made me excited about their next release, whenever that happens.
Unfortunately, I don’t think it’s fair to say the band got HUGE in 2010. Nor did the release of Departing blast them into indie-rock superstardom in 2011. But the album is definitely attracting new people to their sound, and I was at least right that they had the makings of a new great album two years earlier, that first time I heard them live.
I got to see the band again this year, and loved having the opportunity to write up what was one of my favorite gigs of the year. I had said “Prepare yourself for disappointment. You just missed one of the most powerful indie-rock trios to ever come through town.” I really meant it. I can still pull up the feeling of that live show, as if it were a file at the top of my “euphoric experiences” folder. One of the main reasons for that euphoria was the drumming:
The other powerful force in the band is Paul Banwatt, the ball of energy behind the drums. Banwatt chooses tight, complicated rhythms that rattle around Edenloff’s verse and melody like a pinball machine. With undying speed and agility, Banwatt appears to fly around his small kit, lithely touching the sticks to the various surfaces and evoking a methodical, machine-like rhythm. On the band’s recorded music, the drums don’t immediately stand out. But once you’ve seen Banwatt in action, there’s no missing his fantastic myriad of beats plugging away diligently in the background.
I am continually blown away by this band, and find it particularly strange that they haven’t taken off as much as I’d expect. Just goes to show that music taste is a peculiar thing, and not everybody will like what I like. But I’ll keep evangelizing this band as long as they produce music. It’s some of the best stuff out there on any level, and the whole world needs to know it.
And tomorrow, NUMBER 1! Many people are no doubt disappointed that their favorites (Lykke Li, The Weeknd, St. Vincent, to name a few) haven’t made it on the list (to date). You already know I can’t possibly listen to everything that’s been released in the last year, so I thank you for the suggestions and I’ll definitely be listening to what your favorites were for the year, even if it’s too late to add them to the Calendar. But I have to warn you: be prepared for a surprise at #1. It’s something you’re probably not expecting.
3. The King is Dead by The Decemberists
4. W H O K I L L by tUnE-yArDs
5. Build A Rocket Boys! by Elbow
6. Bon Iver by Bon Iver
7. The King of Limbs by Radiohead
8. Bad As Me by Tom Waits
9. Helplessness Blues by Fleet Foxes
10. The Youth Die Young by Mad Rad
11. Last Night On Earth by Noah and the Whale
12. Codes and Keys by Death Cab For Cutie
13. Valley of the Headless Men by Ravenna Woods
14. Hot Sauce Committee Part Two by Beastie Boys
15. James Blake by James Blake
16. Hysterical by Clap Your Hands Say Yeah
17. An Argument with Myself by Jens Lekman
18. The Whole Love by Wilco
19. My Goodness by My Goodness
20. My Head is an Animal by Of Monsters and Men
21. Gloss Drop by Battles
22. Showroom of Compassion by CAKE
23. A New Kind of House EP by Typhoon
24. EP by Grouplove
25. Fan Chosen Covers (Best of) by Eef Barzelay
26. TKOL RMX 1234567 by Radiohead
27. Organ Music Not Virbraphone Like I’d Hoped by Moonface
28. Heavy Boots & Underwoods by Ben Fisher
29. The Rip Tide by Beirut
30. Collapse Into Now by R.E.M.
31. I Am Very Far by Okkervil River