The words “Rural” and “Advantage” are rarely grouped together in the same sentence when speaking within the scope of indepedent music. Bands which form outside of a major metropolis are often faced with a dilemma: stay local and comfortable and risk irrelvance or make the move to the New Yorks and the St.Paul’s alike but risk local alienation. The inevitable move to major cities often has a life-altering effect on indie bands. This kind of jump is one many bands long for, especially those who come from small towns that are often void of a cultural scene. The small towns of the oil-driven province of Alberta come to mind.
But thankfully, with “Hometowns,” one of the most alarmingly aware and engulfing records of the past six months, the Rural Alberta Advantage have found the kind of middle ground that will likely soon propel them into great, great places.
“Hometowns” is an ode to, well, the beauty of living in rural Alberta that often goes unseen. What better way for this 3-piece to find that perfect balance than sing solely about what you know in an effort to fight of local alienation. And the record is just that: a perfect balance. It’s been marked as an indie folk record, yet the only true folk aspect on this record is the attention paid to the heart-breaking yet earnest stories of the people who surrounded RAA in their youth.
From the opening beats of “The Ballad of the RAA,” a sense of longing yet hope for discovery becomes apparent. The percussion on “Hometown” stands alone, breaking apart the twang that litters the record and turns the songs into momentum catchers. And it doesn’t let go.The record rarely drags or lulls, complete with upbeat ballads that laud isolation, (“Don’t Haunt This Place”) and swaying acoustic sunset of “The Deadroads.”
As “Hometowns” wears the pains and beauty of youth on its sleeve, so too does the record show its influences without fear of reprisal. It’s an unabashed homage to the genius of Neutral Milk Hotel. What “Hometowns” does just as well as NMK is blend elements of indie rock and folk to create songs that please and haunt your subconscious in one bending rhythm. How the RAA expand that sound and still maintain focus is what will set “Hometowns” apart for years to come.
In essence, this record will become permanent because it honours a universal truth: if you speak from the heart, great things will happen. “Hometowns” is a front runner for one of the best records of 2009.
By Joshua Kloke[Rating: 5/5]