The Rural Alberta Advantage - Hometowns - Albums - Reviews - Soundblab

The Rural Alberta Advantage - Hometowns

by Rich Morris Rating:5 Release Date:2010-05-10

Musically, this Canadian trio have got a good thing going on, although it's debatable if they know that or not. Their brand of indie-folk is pitched somewhere between the fragile, twinkling alt-country of Sparklehorse and the twisted, rattling shanties of Violent Femmes. However, TRAA only occasionally possess the charm of either group. Opening track 'The Ballad of RAA' is one such moment; it's pretty keyboard melody and heartbeat drum beat making it sound like a folksy reworking of Bowie's 'A New Career in a New Town'.

You will have to make allowances, however, for singer Nils Edenloff's off-putting and frequently irritating vocals. Throughout the album, he often sounds like a drunk and pissed off Dylan, howling away without getting anywhere near the tune. Thankfully, percussionist and keyboard player Amy Cole occasionally contributes vocals; her sweet, soulful voice alleviating Edenloff's whiny bellyaching. 'Don't Haunt This Place' is a great example, Cole and Edenloff vocals combining with gorgeously weeping cello to create something captivatingly lovely, mysterious and autumnal.

Hometowns would seriously benefit from a few more moments like this. Unfortunately, the album's midsection sags quite badly thanks to aimless alt-rock tracks like 'Drain the Blood' and 'Lucinda', which bash around but don't keep one's attention. By the time the band nick the "Oo-oo-ee-oo" refrain from The Rasmus' peerlessly silly goth-pop classic, 'In the Shadows', for 'Frank, AB' - another plodding track - you start to wonder what TRAA's problem is. The bittersweet 'Sleep All Day' goes some way to redressing the balance, proving that, like the aforementioned Sparklehorse, TRAA's strength lies in their more atmospheric moments and their skilful evocation of fragile and careworn human interactions. Here's hoping for a stronger, more consistent album number two.

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