When woozy Canadian indie-rock act Rural Alberta Advantage released its first LP in early 2008, no balloons dropped, no horns sounded, no blogs buzzed — at least until later that year, when we chose that album, Hometowns, for eMusic Selects. Soon enough, the band's taut-but-raggedy, three-piece dance-folk was winning hearts and minds far beyond the Great White North, including in Omaha, Neb., home of Saddle Creek records, which re-released the record in 2009 and smartly let the band simmer for two more years before ushering out its sophomore release.
Departing picks up where Hometowns left off, following that album's wistful closer "In the Summertime" with the wry "Two Lovers," which contemplates the mechanics of a warm-weather affair that's perhaps dragged on too long. "I'll hold you tight enough to crush your veins," promises Nils Edenloff, who seems to have been taking voice-shredding lessons from Jeff Mangum, his strained yawps buttressed throughout by distantly ominous organ drone, twitchily danceable drum-lines and a rowdy electric guitar that nearly overtakes the acoustic strumming that was favored on the band's debut.
The album is full of references to lovers holding each other close, holding each other tight, but every embrace is saddled with a certain sort of desperation — it's as if all parties know that the second they drop their arms and walk away, it'll all be over. As if to distract from the imminent heartbreak, the songs plow forward with reckless abandon — heads down, right up until the sparse, echoing surrender of final track "Good Night," on which Edenloff and under-used keyboardist Amy Cole sound exhausted, ready to finally give in to the schism that's been widening the whole time. In love, these Torontonians might not know when to let go; as a band they're worth grabbing and holding tight.