Release Date: Feb 10, 2017
Record label: Yep Roc
The Upshot: A jewel of an album from Toronto's finest, blending psych, alt-country and Morricone-themed rock to great effect. BY BARRY ST. VITUS Desperate ears straining for good vibrations are blessed with a new release, after a four year gap, from Toronto's formidable foursome, The Sadies. It's not unusual for their releases to be separated by several years, so, while frustrating, it usually proves well worth the wait.
Toronto's the Sadies must have been in an especially Canadian mood when they were writing and recording their tenth studio album, 2017's Northern Passages. The group has always had a knack for creating a powerful atmosphere in the studio, but many of the best moments on Northern Passages suggest they've been channeling the golden days of '70s Can-Con radio. Echoes of the beautiful but moody sounds of Gordon Lightfoot, the Poppy Family, and the Bells float through these songs.
Northern Passages opens with "Riverview Fog," a song in the form of a letter (or maybe a phone call) to the Sadies' reclusive old friend Rick White, who Dallas Good used to play with in Elevator, and who the Sadies collaborated with (along with Greg Keelor) in the Unintended over a decade ago. "It's been a while since the last time I saw you, but I know we will always look the same, like April rain," Dallas Good sings gently over acoustic guitar (possibly his mom Margaret's Guild) as the Sadies channel the vibe of a stoned, folky Canadian Kinks. Then, all of a sudden, the record drastically shifts gears for the second and third songs, as if ripping a page from the Sadies' at-times blistering live shows: drums clamour and the band nod to Chuck Berry in the guitars on "Another Season Again"; they churn out self-generated, almost adolescent addiction-related angst on "There Are No Words," which in turn slows and dissolves into a cosmic country outro, as if to say, "oh, right, we're a country band.
Hard-hitting, electric garage-a-billy rounds out the sweet panged steel and prophetic pluckiness of The Sadies' Northern Passages. From the blissed-out inclusivity of "Riverview Fog," to the nice-by-way-of-curt "There Are No Words," we are won over equally. They're a rough-and-tumble front, folding into a palpable lollygag of steel guitar garnering us into their glowing ring.
For well over two decades, the Canadian foursome of singers/guitarists Dallas and Travis Good, bassist Sean Dean, and drummer Mike Belitsky have been banging out high quality rock and roll, tinged with psychedelic sensibilities and neo-noir inspired grooves. Well known inside their native north of the border homeland, the group has developed quite a devoted following in the U.S., as well, thanks in large part to their association with tasteful labels, Yep Roc and Bloodshot, and a series of simpatico collaborations with folks like John Doe, Andre Williams, and Neko Case. Of course, no band can get by for as long as the Sadies have been getting by without proper tunes and ace musicianship, two traits the band holds in spades.
Everyone's favorite Canadian country/garage/surf/folk/psychedelic/garage pop-rockers are back. The Sadies have used their eclectic prowess to back the diverse likes of John Doe, Neil Young, Andre Williams, Neko Case and Robyn Hitchcock among others, while also releasing a steady stream of their own music. The band's tenth album since 1998's debut, and first in four years, tries to corral the group's wildly diverse influences into a cohesive statement.