The Rural Alberta Advantage are about as rustic as the throbbing synth that opens its newly re-released 2008 debut, Hometowns (Saddle Creek). But you don’t need to listen long to immediately glean the band’s backwater charm as the chimes and strings kick in. Like an indie-rockier American Analog Set, a more stately and minimalist Clap Your Hands Say Yeah, or a folkier, filled-out Matt and Kim, the Rural Alberta Advantage’s earnest feistiness shines through the homespun, lo-fi production of Hometowns. This is your ramshackle, head-bobbing summertime soundtrack for rides on a rusty, old Schwinn: The euphoric “ooo-ooo”’s, breezy acoustic strums and the brisk rattle and crash of spare cymbal and snare of “The Deadroads” almost beg for a spin. “Sleep All Day” swings with the lazy melodicism of Wilco, stripped down and shivering with tambourine, and I double-dare you not to bounce and spin around to the Feelies-like crazy rhythms and upbeat minor-key chorus of “Frank, AB.” It’s a tune that’s manages to dance along the edge of folk, indie, and synth-pop simultaneously -- which is quite a feat, I think, as I study my spazzy feet.
Hometown’s songs emerged from singer-songwriter Nils Edenloff’s move from the relative Canadian backwater of Edmonton to the big city of Toronto, inspired by loneliness and fed by alienation -- consider these love notes to his old stomping grounds. A turn at an open mic night led Edenloff to drummer Paul Banwalt, and two ended up hosting open mic regularly. Playing the heck out of these songs throughout eastern Canada, the group eventually earned a rep as an amazing live act. With the addition and departure of various members (Amy Cole stayed) and a thumbs up from eMusic, the Rural Alberta Advantage finally saw the self-released Hometowns picked up for proper release by Saddle Creek this year.
A happy ending? Nah, for the Rural Alberta Advantage, it’s just starting.
The Rural Alberta Advantage play Thursday, July 9, 9 p.m., at Bottom of the Hill, 1233 17th St., S.F. Okay and Half-handed Cloud open. (415) 621-4455, www.bottomofthehill.com