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CD Review: The Rural Alberta Advantage 

Hometowns (Saddle Creek)

Is there some sort of advantage in hailing from rural Alberta? For this Toronto-based trio, it appears it could be the freedom to sop up an inordinate number of influences. Seeing wider release via Saddle Creek after its online-only release last year, Hometowns singer Nils Edenloff (the only band member actually from Alberta) is quite the mimic. The disadvantage is that they lack their own identity. There's still a lot to like here. The band's most obvious touchstone is Neutral Milk Hotel, as Edenloff sometimes channels the vocal spirit of Jeff Mangum in an almost disquieting way on tracks like "Rush Apart." The band has plenty of energy, and drummer Paul Banwatt takes centerstage on album highlight "The Dethbridge in Lethbridge." Elsewhere, the band wears their influences in a too-obvious manner: a little Rosebuds on "Frank, AB," some Clap Your Hands Say Yeah on "Edmonton" and the aforementioned NMH all over the place. There is potential here; don't forget the Decemberists were also once cast as NMH wannabes. Perhaps once the band explores the world past its Hometowns, they'll find their own sound. — Chris Drabick

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