The third studio album from the big-hearted Canadian indie rock trio, the Saddle Creek-issued Mended with Gold mines the same sonic and emotional terrain as its 2011 Polaris Prize-nominated predecessor, but there's an electricity that runs through the set that suggests the kind of band tightening that can only occur through heavy touring and workshopping. Urgency has always played a large part in the Rural Alberta Advantage sound, and their folksy indie rock anthems, despite being a tad formulaic, never feel disingenuous. That distinct heartland punk bite dominates the first half of the album, with sweaty crowd-pleasers like "Our Love..." and "On the Rocks" leading the charge, due in large part to the fiery sticks of drummer Paul Banwatt, who can go from tasteful to downright feral in an Alberta minute and does so throughout the album, but it's in Mended with Gold's second half that the band feels the most engaged. Beginning with the snowy Springsteen shuffle of "Runners in the Night," the band plays around with its architecture by re-appropriating the provincial folk of fellow countrymen like Gordon Lightfoot ("To Be Scared") and Neil Young ("The Build") and then shooting it through with just enough Arcade Fire-blasted indie rock melodrama to get the blood pumping, while simultaneously keeping things grounded to the basement floor. Nowhere is that more apparent than on the one-two punch of "Vulcan, AB" and "Not Love or Death," both of which manage to toss in the kitchen sink and remain afloat. Both songs are epic, yet neither is over three and a half minutes long, which is where RAA have bands like Arcade Fire beat. Mended with Gold is big enough for arenas, but it's made for barns.
AllMusic Review by James Christopher Monger