The Rural Alberta Advantage

Pop Addict: The Rural Alberta Advantage’s Departing

Every Thursday, Pop Addict presents infectious tunes from contemporary musicians across indie rock, pop, folk, electronica, and more.

The Rural Alberta Advantage: DepartingThe Rural Alberta Advantage: Departing (Saddle Creek, 3/1/11)

The Rural Alberta Advantage: “North Star”

[audio:|titles=The Rural Alberta Advantage: “North Star”]

The Rural Alberta Advantage made a name for itself the old-fashioned way: by being good. In 2007, the Toronto-based trio self-released an impressive concoction of frenzied indie-folk rock with Hometowns. Set to a backdrop of erratic drum work, fuzzed-out electrics, and heart-strumming acoustics, as well as a flutter of harmonies from singers Nils Edenloff and Amy Cole, Hometowns explored themes of growing up, going out, moving away, and coming home. Perhaps most striking is Edenloff’s nasally, Jeff Mangum-like howl, evoking Neutral Milk Hotel’s gritty arrangements and lo-fi production.

After touring the hell out of the album in North America and Europe, some buzz began to build on the blogosphere, and it didn’t take long for people to notice that the Canadian band was indie’s newest best-kept secret — one well worth discovering. And so, in 2008, the band signed to Saddle Creek and re-released Hometowns with widespread distribution and to critical acclaim.

Cut Copy

Pop Addict: Cut Copy’s Zonoscope

Every Thursday, Pop Addict presents infectious tunes from contemporary musicians across indie rock, pop, folk, electronica, and more.

Cut Copy: ZonoscopeCut Copy: Zonoscope (Modular, 2/8/11)

Cut Copy: “Take Me Over”

[audio:|titles=Cut Copy: “Take Me Over”]

Indie has evolved drastically over the years. The genre is defined differently by anyone, and for good reason. In the past decade alone, it has borrowed from nearly every genre of music, with a plethora of bands infusing their music with rock, blues, jazz, folk, techno, metal, shoegaze, dubstep — the list goes on and on. Keeping in step with this pattern, indie has recently developed a kinship to dance pop, and it has fully embraced the metamorphosis that it underwent in the past few years.

The transition was perhaps at its peak in 2008, when widely unknown Cut Copy burst on the scene with the exceptional In Ghost Colours. The Australia-based band was armed with an expansive sound, showcasing soaring dance-pop anthems and a good portion of sunnyside-up indie pop. The album fused elements of dance, rock, pop, techno, and more together, offering an action-packed LP that was bent on making you move and sway whether you wanted to or not.


Pop Addict: Tennis’ Cape Dory

Tennis: Cape DoryTennis: Cape Dory (Fat Possum, 1/18/11)

Tennis: “Long Boat Pass”

[audio:|titles=Tennis: “Long Boat Pass”]

Fiction is at the heart of pipe dreams. Rarely when we scheme something far-fetched or grandiose do we actually follow through in executing our plan, especially if it’s something as profound as selling all of our possessions and sailing across the map for about a year or so. But that is precisely what husband-and-wife duo Patrick Riley and Alaina Moore, the masterminds behind indie-pop outfit Tennis, did.

After graduating from college, the two philosophy majors sold their belongings and ventured away from Denver to embark on the unknown by means of a sailboat — a plan for which they prepared extensively. Navigating around North America, the couple then decided to document the experience, not through film or memoir, but through music. And thus Tennis was born.

From the get-go, Cape Dory, the couple’s debut effort on Fat Possum, gives you a glimpse of what its voyage must have been like. With 10 songs clocking in at less than 30 minutes, Riley and Moore’s feeling of staying put for too long in any one place is almost tangible. Once the album sets sail, it’s ready to move along without the need of staying anchored in any one spot. The songs, with titles like “South Carolina,” “Baltimore,” and “Bimini Bay,” move along swiftly, as the band looks to cover the most ground (or water, rather) in the quickest amount of time.

Tapes 'n Tapes

Pop Addict: Tapes ‘n Tapes’ Outside

Tapes 'n Tapes: OutsideTapes ‘n Tapes: Outside (Ibid, 1/11/11)

Tapes ‘n Tapes: “Freak Out”

[audio:|titles=Tapes ‘n Tapes: “Freak Out”]

It wasn’t too long ago when Tapes ‘n Tapes was indie rock’s next big thing. And there certainly was reason for the hype. The Minneapolis-based quartet’s 2006 effort, The Loon, is chock-full of raw pop hooks and a DIY sensibility that has often propelled forward the best that the genre has to offer.

And back in 2006, Tapes ‘n Tapes certainly seemed destined to become one of the elite. When the everyday no-namers decided to self-release a bad-ass concoction of Pixies-style rock songs that were just as upbeat and catchy as they were introspective and self-exploratory, something new and refreshing was at hand. The band came out of nowhere, really, garnering a buzz that thrust it onto a major label, and it was crowned as indie’s great new hope.

Then, like many heavily hyped bands, Tapes ‘n Tapes fell victim to the dreaded sophomore slump. Its first effort on a major label, Walk It Off, in 2008, fell short of reviving the youth and vivacity that dripped from every track on The Loon. Gone were the rough edges and hook-laden pop songs; instead, the album featured a collection of songs that seemed intent on missing the mark. Aside from the album’s standout track “Hang ’Em All,” Walk It Off seemed unable to capture what The Loon did.

It lacked that same freshness, that same energy that the band was somehow able to bottle on its first album. The band no longer offered its sparse yet frenzied melodies that helped each song gleam. Each song purged on gluttonous arrangements and instruments, an indulgent examination of what the band should have done with a major-label budget. And so Tapes ‘n Tapes became another victim of hype — so much promise, but so much pressure. And it fell to the wayside, for better or worse.

Iron and Wine

Pop Addict: Iron and Wine’s Kiss Each Other Clean

Every Thursday, Pop Addict presents infectious tunes from contemporary musicians across indie rock, pop, folk, electronica, and more.

Iron and Wine: Kiss Each Other CleanIron and Wine: Kiss Each Other Clean (Warner Bros., 1/25/11)

Iron and Wine: “Walking Far from Home”
[audio:|titles=Iron and Wine: “Walking Far from Home”]

When Iron and Wine made its debut in 2002 with underground sensation The Creek Drank the Cradle, it immediately became apparent that there was something special at hand. The album — anchored by lo-fi acoustic finger-picking set to Sam Beam’s hushed, harmonized vocals — featured no bells and whistles.  It remains a blunt testament of Beam’s humble offerings as a songwriter and the splendor that he can achieve through it.  Today, when listening to the album, you still get the feeling that the songs were written by Beam while he sat on the front porch of a ramshackle home, located on a dirt farm somewhere down south, singing “Upward Over the Mountain” as the late summer sun sets beyond the horizon.


Pop Addict: Violens’ Amoral

Every Thursday, Pop Addict presents infectious tunes from contemporary musicians across indie rock, pop, folk, electronica, and more.

Violens: Amoral

Violens: Amoral (Static Recital, 11/9/10)

Violens: “Acid Reign”

[audio:|titles=Violens: “Acid Reign”]

From the start of its debut LP, Amoral, Violens‘ strength is clear: revitalizing and embellishing 1980s-inspired new-wave pop.

By rejecting the raw, lo-fi approach so prevalent today in independent music and the all-too-common reverb-drenched sound, this NYC indie group sticks with what it knows best: clean, unabashed, dance rock. Even with the band’s overt arsenal of sounds — outer-space keyboards, calculated drumming, pop-driven bass lines, blissful resonating vocals, and fuzzed-out guitars — Amoral‘s production lets the band’s sound come off as tight and polished.

Paul Cary

Pop Addict: Paul Cary’s Ghost of a Man

Every Thursday, Pop Addict presents infectious tunes from contemporary musicians across indie rock, pop, folk, electronica, and more.

Paul Cary: Ghost of a ManPaul Cary: “The Curse of China Bull” (Ghost of a Man, available for free at Candy Dinner)
[audio:|titles=Paul Cary: “The Curse of China Bull”]

Music, like any form of art, is at its best when it is evolving, transforming, and shifting the way that we think about a certain style or genre, altering our perception of what constitutes good music. Only by looking forward can we free ourselves from resuscitating the same old thing.

However, an album like Ghost of a Man, the latest effort from Chicago-based rocker Paul Cary, is enough to turn that notion on its head. Ghost finds Cary looking back, evoking bluesy backwoods foot-stompers with rough edges and sharp teeth. He’s not simply regurgitating. Cary’s howling voice and raw guitar playing puts a modern twist on the genres he’s exploring, giving them a fresh start.

Fire on Fire

Fire On Fire: Starting Over

Out of the ashes of “art-punk-prog-chaos” sextet Cerberus Shoal, the tortured, backwoods folk hymns of Fire On Fire were born, marking a new beginning for a tour-battered bunch.