Offering a special brand of shambolic indie folk paired with the nasally wails of guitarist-vocalist Nils Edenloff and the frenzied rhythms of drummer Paul Banwatt, Rural Alberta Advantage’s 2008 debut Hometowns earned comparisons to Neutral Milk Hotel. While the Canadian band hasn’t quite lived up to that standard, it still found a place in the energetic and percussive folk elite. Its latest release, The Wild, solidifies this position with an aptly titled affair sharpened by a lo-fi punk edge and the occasional glints of a balladeer’s grace.

Much of the group’s energy stems from Banwatt’s incessant and propulsive around-the-kit drumming. His relentless rhythms are a highlight on a number of tracks, especially the barnyard stomper “Dead/Alive.” His machine-gunned snare hits empower Edenloff’s threshing yelps and threaten to bring the barn down altogether in the process of creating one of the band’s most memorable and hectic songs. On such tracks as “Toughen Up” and “Wild Grin,” Banwatt continues to elevate and roughen up the band’s rootsy tendencies, proving himself to be one of the more underrated drummers out there today.

Even if Banwatt propels much of the album, Edenloff holds up his end of the bargain well. For example, on album opener “Beacon Hill,” Edenloff transforms his warbles and whoops into catchy hooks rife with emotion, pushing his voice into the red on lines like “It’s getting harder now to just swallow/ I never want to see you gone.” On the album’s first single, “Brother”—a roughed up Of Monsters and Men meets Lumineers ramble—he strains and bellows with an affective tenor at the song’s climax, making the lines “Through the dark tonight/ I’m coming back for you” bound with incredible urgency and feeling.

Throughout the album, Edenloff’s characteristic yelps are joined by new member Robin Hatch. Her graceful harmonies bring a measure of beauty to the rougher edges of the album, her satiny backing vocals and bassy synths resembling former member Amy Cole. On the driving “Bad Luck Again,” she weaves in choir-like falsettos and threads silken harmonies into the sing-along chorus. On “White Light,” her voice carries a drowsy twang, bringing the song’s frayed edges into the sonic realm of a more poppy Americana.

Although most of The Wild is as frantic and rabid as its title suggests, the band can also lay bare a different type of emotional energy. “Alright” offers a bleak but concentrated glimpse into ways of coping: “Last night sitting in the dark, I was being difficult/ I know we’re gonna be alright/ I know, I hope.” “Letting Go” smolders with emotional resignation, but builds to a feverish intensity as Banwatt’s cymbal crashes and Edenloff’s tormented wails round out the album.

A collection of kinetic and ragged folk, The Wild moves with unmistakable urgency and pronounced earnestness. Although it won’t likely unseat the debut as the band’s best album, it maintains the roguish energy that has come to define the group.

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