In order to set the proper listening mood for Favourite Colours, the fifth album from Canadian surf rock/psychedelic/garage/alt-country stalwarts the Sadies, I suggest waiting for a day where the sky is as slate gray as the album’s cover is. As alluded to in the preceding sentence, the Sadies draw from a large pool of influences. The band’s genre mash-ups have tended to serve them better onstage than in the studio, but with Favourite Colours, they concentrate on primarily one influence: autumnal, Byrdsian, psychedelic-tinged country-rock. This newfound focus helps make Favourite Colours the Sadies’ best album yet.
I mentioned a decidedly gray (or is it “grey”, since we’re spelling “colors” as the continental “colours”?) pallor informing the album, but please don’t mistake that as evidence that Favourite Coloursis downbeat. The friendly, bouncy opener “Northumberland West” yields to the folksy “Translucent Sparrow”, brightened with some trumpet coloring, and while neither tune constitutes the heart of the album, they both establish an organic feel that permeates the rest of the tunes. For we in the New England states: The Sadies have crafted a soundtrack to a fall foliage tour. (Apologies to the rest of the world for not being able to come up with an apt metaphor for the Sadies’ sound.)
The actual heart of the album falls to a three-song suite that any Byrds fan will thrill to hear. “1000 Cities Falling” is a haunted acoustic murder ballad, with lead singer Dallas Good croaking “The angels killed the devils / Hung them in the streets / And reveled in the bloodlust and the fires of revenge” (this album isn’t bleak, honest!); “Song of the Chief Musician” is a shimmering psychedelic gem, anchored by the harmonizing of Dallas and his brother Travis; “Why Be So Curious?” is similarly haunting and spare. Oddly enough, these songs that comprise the mini-suite share no discernible common thematic elements (and they’re only linked by dint of the fact that they are labeled parts 1, 2, and 3), but they’re three of Favourite Colours‘s strongest moments.
With the suite completed by track six (on a 13-song album), the Sadies (inadvertently?) front-loaded Side A with the album’s best songs. The back half is hardly populated by slouches, but lightweight tunes like the twangy “As Much as Such” can’t match the punch packed by the album’s earlier cuts. So while they may not fit Favourite Colours‘s overall mood, I dig the instrumental ‘60s pop homage “Only You and Your Eyes” and the rollicking “Coming Back” as stand-alone tracks.
The Sadies close the album with some help from Robyn Hitchcock (with whom the band has collaborated in the past—the press packet mentions some Syd Barrett covers), who penned and sings “Why Would Anybody Live Here?”, a pretty waltz fortified by Hitchcock’s booming voice—a voice so loud it practically drowns out Good’s voice on the other songs. Again, it’s a great stand-alone track, but it’s less effective when taken in context of the whole album.
Byrds fans, as mentioned, will rejoice with the album, as will Canadians, who can proudly add the Sadies to their country’s, uh, Americana ranks, joining the Band, Neil Young, and Neko Case. (Canadian Byrds fans will likely explode with joy.) One last name drop: With Favourite Colours, the Sadies have crafted the finest alt-country/folk record since Uncle Tupelo’s March 16-20, 1992. Just be sure to wait til a gray/grey autumn day to find out.