Second year blues

Canadian indie-rockers, The Rural Alberta Advantage return for a less-than-inspiring part two.

Canada's prized indie sweethearts elaborate their hometown nostalgia on

Photo Courtesy Royal Alberta Advantage

Canada’s prized indie sweethearts elaborate their hometown nostalgia on “Departing.”

Sally Hedberg

WHAT: TheRural Alberta Advantage

WHEN: 8 p.m., tomorrow

WHERE: First Avenue Mainroom, 701 First Ave N., Minneapolis

COST: $12 in advance; $14 at the door

Charming Canadian trio The Rural Alberta Advantage won the respect of indie-rock lovers in 2009 with their emotive debut, âÄúHometowns.âÄù With the crude beauty of their simple instrumentations and a lead singer who sounded eerily similar to Jeff Mangum, they gained the endorsement of respected music blogs and were able to inch forward within the scene as a buzz band amongst the folk-oriented spectrum.

This was enough to carry them through the last couple years of constant touring, but on the brink of their Friday show, itâÄôs finally time for the band to reckon with the reality of their recent follow-up album, âÄúDeparting.âÄù

ThereâÄôs something to the fact that the band had been playing their entire debut record long before they signed with indie label Saddle Creek Records in 2009. They had recorded âÄúHometownsâÄù themselves in 2007, and once under the wing of the label there were no glaring adjustments made to the original music. So when they were thrown into the whirlwind of a tight touring schedule, at least they were comfortable with their material.

Conversely, the musical process for âÄúDepartingâÄù has been considerably more rushed. After just three months in the studio, they pumped out a record and soon after plunged again into an intense routine of playing shows.

âÄúSometimes these are really new songs for us to be playing, like itâÄôs only our sixth or seventh show playing a couple of them,âÄù backing vocalist and keyboardist Amy Cole said. âÄúBut weâÄôre ready for it. WeâÄôre prepared, and weâÄôre really excited.âÄù

ThereâÄôs something to be said about a band with enthusiasm, and thereâÄôs no denying that theyâÄôre extremely passionate about what theyâÄôre doing, but thereâÄôs also no denying that âÄúDepartingâÄù is a textbook sophomore slump, and itâÄôs pretty easy to pinpoint why.

âÄúHometownsâÄù was so adored because the origin story of these folksy Canadians was initially fascinating. Lead vocalist Nils EdenloffâÄôs poignant lyrics did a stunning job capturing the collective love of a location, of a time and of the nuanced connections to the place they called home.

Musically, the group was daring. They didnâÄôt hold any delusions about trying to be technically overambitious. It was wholly evident that they were still perfecting their craft on their instruments, but the roughness added honesty to what they were attempting to communicate. The current problem lies in the fact that they arenâÄôt communicating anything all that different.

âÄúThis record was always meant to be kind of a continuation, sort of a closure to what started with âÄòHometowns,âÄôâÄù Cole said. âÄúIn terms of pushing boundaries we wanted to definitely get the ideas across and continue exploring those themes.âÄù

These themes were interesting the first time around; it just comes off as lazy to continue them through music that isnâÄôt nearly as strong as the debut. Following up a stellar release is loaded with pressure and can determine a lot, but thatâÄôs not to say that The Rural Alberta Advantage is sitting at the helm of musical-career doom. And they have an awareness of their redundancy

âÄúWe donâÄôt want to keep writing about the same things over and over again,âÄù Cole said. âÄúThe next album will be a completely new chapter in terms of themes that weâÄôre talking about.âÄù

Though the album isnâÄôt top-notch, follow-up flops can be forgiven, especially when the bandâÄôs truest musical advantage lies in their performances. Regardless of the subject matter, the tireless fervor infused in their live sets is enough to keep a fanbase loyal and interested. Because theyâÄôre so into what theyâÄôre doing, itâÄôs just too early in their career to write them off completely.