Note: This is the Canadian band’s debut album. It was actually recorded in 2007, and they started selling it in shows in 2008. Eventually excellent buzz after key festival performances and an eruption of support online led to a record deal with Saddle Creek, who officially released Hometowns for the first time here in the summer of 2009.
Sound: There are at least three types of songs on here – the light, wistful acoustic reflection, the pulsing, pleasing mid-tempo indie pop tune and the hard-stomping, rocker. Most songs incorporate some soft, subtle organ and strings that create a sweet, yearning atmosphere that’s frequently peppered by Amy Cole’s innocent and airy harmonies. But these gentler sounds are often balanced by Paul Banwatt’s feverish percussion, which can be explosive (like mini-fireworks displays), skittering or just pounding. Leading the way, though, is frontman/singer/songwriter Nils Edenloff. His tales of heartbeak and homesickness are powered by a voice that can be piercing and nasal (but melodically pleasing in the way Billy Corgan’s voice can be), husky and glammy (Supergrass’ Gaz Coombes comes to mind) and scrappy and punky (with hints of Modest Mouse’s Isaac Brock and even a little bit of early Jack White with The White Stripes).
Heavy Rotation tracks: “The Dethbridge in Lethbridge”; “The Ballad of RAA”; “Don’t Haunt This Place”; “The Deadroads”; “Edmonton”; “Four Night Rider”
Medium Rotation tracks: The rest
Recommended: The melodies are top-notch, the juxtaposition of mellower and more aggressive sounds adds exciting emotional depth to each song and the eclectic range of styles keeps you guessing throughout. Hometowns is an excellent debut. Now that it’s been officially released, it’s an immediate contender for album of the year consideration.
Grade: A (Strong 20 Albums of 2009 Candidate)