Release Date: Jul 7, 2009
Record label: Saddle Creek
Genre(s): Indie, Rock
Over the course of the past 10 or so years-- from Neutral Milk Hotel to Arcade Fire to Bright Eyes-- winking detachment has ceded an increasing amount of indie rock ground to unmockable earnestness. Next in that line of serious, and seriously emotive, songwriters are the Rural Alberta Advantage. The Toronto-based trio, led by born-and-bred Albertan Nils Edenloff, has created an affecting debut that's full of nostalgic songs about hometowns (hence its title) and heartbreaks, marrying salt-of-the-earth acoustic rock to energetic rhythms and grand orchestral arrangements.
With a name like the Rural Alberta Advantage and a debut album called Hometowns, one would hope for an unpretentious collection of amiable indie pop tunes filtered through the wistful lens of a Wes Anderson film, and that's exactly what you get. Singer/songwriter Nils Edenloff, along with Amy Cole and Paul Banwatt, craft lovelorn postcards to small town heartache, beloved and embittered friends and family, blue collar hardships, and the great big world around them with the kind of wide-eyed gusto that's extremely effective when played in front of a hundred sweaty, dancing kids at a house show in somebody's rented basement, but dribbles out of a pair of headphones like a leaky faucet. All too often, that energy is lost when a talented young band like this enters the studio, and RAA do their best to transcend the limitations of their home recorded calling card, but that energy eating reaper follows Hometowns around like a cop car on a Saturday night.
When the Rural Alberta Advantage first released Hometowns on their own in 2008, it sure took off in a hurry. After being picked to be spotlighted in the eMusic Selects program—which highlights unsigned bands—the album became the best-selling record in Selects history. And with their success booming, Saddle Creek stepped in and snatched them up, and have now given Hometowns a proper release.
Talk about a whirl of hype. Many people have been listening to The Rural Alberta Advantage for a good year now. Whether that was through legal or illegal means is another topic all on its own; their debut album, Hometowns, was self-released a year ago. For many artists that follow this path (see: The Antlers), they sign with a label and a re-issue is set in place.