Hometowns – The Rural Alberta Advantage

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The Rural Alberta Advantage have everything going for them – a long name that references a Canadian province that isn’t Quebec, Ontario, or British Columbia, which amounts to North of the Border “outsider” status for a yankee. Also, they play (described by a press release) “indie-folk” – which may or may not be the most redundant term (I’m still deciding) I can think of currently floating in the lazy music writer collective consciousness.

But what might be the most important thing is that they are putting out this album, Hometowns on Saddle Creek, the label that either launched Conor Oberst, or was launched by their association with him and his band Bright Eyes. I’m not totally sure which one is more right (launching or launchee) and truth be told, I haven’t bothered to listen to anything on the label since it went down. After frequent listens to Hometowns, I will admit I might have been a snobby schmuck.

What is it about T.R.A.A. that is changing my tune? Maybe the fact that Hometowns is totally heart-on-the-sleeve music that doesn’t come off as feeling at all contrived, and has this urgency that has been missing from this sound for quite some time. It seems almost like everything this band does, is paying homage to indie pop (another redundant, lazy-ass term that I’ll admit to using) of the prior decade.

A perfect example is right at the opener, “The Ballad of RAA.” The song starts out sounding something like “Sleep the Clock Around” by Belle and Sebastian, except if Jeff Mangum was the lead singer. It’s sort of like a wet-dream to anybody who grew up worshiping at the altar of Matador-Merge-Kindercore bands from the second half of the 90s. They continue to rip through this album into song four, “Don’t Haunt This Place”, which sort of sounds like the kind of song you will hear in whatever the next Wes Andersonesque film to star Michael Cera to come out is. And while you want to play the part of the snob, and say that kind of stuff doesn’t get you a little happy, I might have to call you either a liar, or a person who is totally dead inside.