Rural Alberta Advantage, Hometowns (Saddle Creek)

Bracing indie rock from the land of tar sands

The Rural Alberta Advantage explodes out of the blocks with such excessive energy that by the time it reaches a track called “Sleep All Day,” you can''t help but feel the band has earned the privilege. Pounding out passionate tracks with a Neutral Milk Hotel vibe, the Canadian trio doesn''t exactly paint a sunny picture of its home province with uplifting track titles such as “The Deadroads,” “The Dethbridge in Lethbridge” and “Drain the Blood.” But it''s clear the band name isn''t all irony, because the music feels honest and lived-in on this reissue of the group''s 2008 debut.

The stark, intense songs often deal with the kind of love that, like the prairielike scene depicted on the album cover in bold blocks of faded color, can either be an expanse to fill up or an emptiness to drown in. RAA''s songs will probably fit in well next to those of Saddle Creek labelmate Tim Kasher, another expert at cathartic release. Musically, the Rural Alberta Advantage isn''t anything new, but when the threesome hits the ramshackle rhythm on “The Deadroads,” the chugging chords of “Edmonton” or the sneering vocals of “The Dethbridge in Lethbridge,” it doesn''t really matter.
[4 out of 5 stars]