Every Tuesday, Torontoist scours record store shelves in search of the city’s most notable new releases and brings you the best—or sometimes just the biggest—of what we’ve heard in Sound Advice.
Although it isn’t technically a brand-new release, we would be negligent parents to ignore today’s long-overdue official release of Hometowns, the debut album from relative scene babies The Rural Alberta Advantage. It’s noteworthy not only for the fact that the re-release happens to be courtesy of Omaha, NE’s indie-mecca Saddle Creek Records (where the RAA find themselves among other friendly CanCon faces such as Sebastien Grainger, Land of Talk, and Tokyo Police Club), but because of the gradual grassroots buzz that Hometowns managed to accumulate based solely on the strength of the minimal and urgent indie ballads in disguise.
The RAA’s beginning was as modest as their ascent; after singer/songwriter Nils Edenloff moved from—you guessed it—rural Alberta to a lonely new life in Toronto, he started co-hosting an open mic night in an east-end bar with now-drummer Paul Banwatt. Edenloff’s songs about the often-overlooked beauty and advantages (you can see where he was going with this) of his hometown took their sweetly sharp shape after the addition of multi-instrumentalist/vocalist Amy Cole. After the first self-released run of Hometowns (early 2008) and countless local shows, the RAA landed a spot as American digital music retailer eMusic’s featured artist in late 2008, and then a spot on the eMusic SXSW showcase with headliners Grizzly Bear in March where the hearts of record labels and impenetrable music journalists were captured forever.
If you haven’t already heard it, now is as good a time as ever to fall for Hometowns‘ Neutral-Milk-Hotel-indie-meets-Canadiana-folk. It’s as achingly earnest as it is exciting; the energy of Banwatt’s relentless percussion (“The Dethbridge in Lethbridge”) is a perfect bed for Edenloff’s plaintive-but-ferocious guitar playing and heartfelt wail (uh, every song), and Cole’s soft harmonies provide not only the perfect complementary wistfulness to the hometown musings, but just enough of that cute-and-lovable indie-rock sound without steering things into clichéd badlands (“Don’t Haunt This Place”). They started without a scene to call home, but the RAA have quietly and congenially worked their way into a coveted and deserved rank. The band brings their engaging live show home (?) when they play the Horseshoe on July 30.