Review by Music Vice editor Brian Banks – 1 January, 2010
I rank music a close second to oxygen in terms of its importance to my day-to-day living, and one of the best moments in the life of a music fanatic is when you come across an album that makes such an impact on you that you’ll know it will live with you forever. The kind of album that sets a marker at a specific point along the timeline of your life: so much so that you could place it at the correct spot without hesitation if you were to mimic Ben in a scene from the movie High Fidelity and sort your record collection in chronological order. Whatever the scenario, musical discoveries of this kind of personal significance only come along so often – to me Hometowns is one such treasure, and an album that became the most essential part to my soundtrack to 2009.
There is music for every occasion but perhaps the rarest yet most important type is music that simply just reaches you, like nothing else. Oft times this is the music that you can find solace in in times of trauma. The music can become a crutch to lift you off the floor and get you out the door and back into the daylight, or at the very least remind you that your not alone to feel pain. Feeder epitomized this and put a name on it with their album Comfort In Sound. It is a rare feat to be able to capture the sadness and pain of bereavement and expel it as enjoyable, positive-minded music that reaches out to so many people – Feeder’s triumph was borne from the tragedy of a loss of band mate, but with Hometowns there is a different source of deprivation used for inspiration.
Throughout the Albertan-themed songs are the most touching and personal tales of heartache. Themes of love, especially the unrequited kind, are so common in music but its rare that an artist can touch this subject without sounding mawkish or just plain sappy, but the Toronto based three-piece The Rural Alberta Advantage pull it off with music rich with raw emotion.
Hometowns is replete with fervent energy from start to finish – the pulse is sometimes slow (“Sleep All Day”, “The Air”), sometimes racing (“The Dethbridge In Lethbridge”), but always with an absorbing intensity. The main accomplishment of Hometowns is how its earnest lyrics are carried by music which is creative, accessible and upbeat. A prime example of this is the outstanding “Don’t Haunt This Place” which combines uptempo percussion with deep slow strings, while the RAA’s passionately expressive lead singer and songwriter Nils Edenloff is backed with warmth by Amy Cole.
Ultimately, Hometowns is a recovery record. The music is inspired by the most personal pain and sadness, but instead of sounding bitter or angry the most positive triumph is pulled off, with music that is honest, compelling and beautiful. A fantastic album.
© Brian Banks
Interview: The Rural Alberta Advantage