Veteran Canadian rockers return from a multi-year hiatus stronger than ever.
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. While the partnerships and label support help pay the bills, it’s the music that brings the longtime fans back to the well and whose praises bring new listeners into the fold.
On Northern Passages, the Sadies return from a four-year hiatus with their tenth studio album. While their presence has been sorely missed from the musical landscape, it appears as though the intervening years caused little to change in terms of the tone, tenor, and outlook of the band’s music. There are a whole lot of reference points to sort through here as they continue to use an amalgamation of Nuggets-era garage rock, classic country, and on rarer occasions even allowing tinges of rockabilly to sink in.
The album’s 11 tracks run smoothly through all these aforementioned genres, but like nearly all Sadies albums benefit from the quartet’s effortless familiarity in playing with each other. Countless shows, rehearsals, and recording sessions have allowed the band to get away with tricks that would fall flat in the hands of those less qualified. There’s the abrupt and jarring juxtaposition of the opening two tracks; the pastoral and lilting harmonies that anchor “Riverview Fog” seguing immediately into the thunderous clamor of “Another Season Again”. “The Elements Song” swirls along for five-plus minutes along a gorgeous psych-rock head trip before shifting into an old-school honky-tonk hoedown for its’ final minute-long outro.
Elsewhere, an easy Byrds’-like country groove anchors the breezy “God Bless the Infidels”, while more straightforward pop country elements reveal themselves during “Through Strange Eyes”, and “As Above, So Below”. (As always, the Sadies receive bonus points for utilizing such esoteric song titles.)
Finally, a big surprise reveals itself with Kurt Vile’s appearance on “It’s Easy (Like Walking)”. A laid-back mid-tempo rocker centered around the joys of playing air guitar (or perhaps it’s that shape the hand takes on after so many nights up on the stage), the song fits Vile’s laconic delivery perfectly, serving as further evidence of the Sadies’ ability to shine as brightly as collaborators as they do completely on their own.
As a further bonus for time away, the Sadies will be taking their show out on the road this upcoming spring and summer. Take note if they travel to a town near you, as the live performances take their material to even greater heights than what is recorded on tape. The tracks from Northern Passages should mesh in nicely with their immense catalog of work.