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The Sadies: Northern Passages

by Jesse Jarnow on April 18, 2017
The veteran Canadian quartet The Sadies stay positively and lovingly on-brand on their 10th album, Northern Passages, brimming with doom-filled twang, spaghetti-western flourishes, brotherly vocals and the dynamics of musicians who have been playing together for over 20 years. Equally adept at surprising melodic turns as rich arrangements, The Sadies come with no frills, minimalist in the sense that they achieve it as a rock band using acoustic and electric guitars. The 11 songs on Northern Passages thrill with hot picking (“Through Strange Eyes”), instinctive swing (“There Are No Words”), and opened up spaces that perhaps could/should extend for another 20 minutes more—all supported by the songwriting of the Good brothers, nephews of The Good Brothers (the Grateful Dead-affiliated country-rockers). Inveterate collaborators, including with The Good Brothers themselves, Dallas and Travis Good (and Sean Dean and Mike Belitsky) have recorded albums with Neko Case, John Doe of X, Gord Downie of The Tragically Hip and others. On “It’s Easy (Like Walking),” fan Kurt Vile slides into the frontman role like a lost relative. But Northern Passages is at its best with the movement between irresistible and seemingly effortless garage-blasters like “Another Season Again,” steel-laced alt-country laments like “The Good Years,” and Byrds-y blyss like “Questions I Never Asked.” When the album closes with an instrumental that purposefully moves through sections until sounding like a Western’s end credit sequence (“The Noise Museum”), it doubles as an invitation into the previous 20 years of recording activity.

Authors: Jesse Jarnow
Artist: The Sadies
Album: Northern Passages
Label: YEP ROC