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. Northern Passages marks their fourth conspicuously excellent album in a row, and a worthy follow-up to 2013’s impeccable Internal Sounds.
Northern Passages is replete with their trademark blend of psych, alt-country, and Morricone-themed rock. They did, however, exclude any with a hotrod or surf flavor on this eleven-tune outing. Following a theme started two albums ago with songs titled “Another Year Again,” “Another Day Again,” “Another Tomorrow Again,” and “Another Yesterday Again,” we get “Another Season Again” in this batch, a rocket-fueled, in-yer-face rocker. “There Are No Words,” also gooses up the adrenaline, with gnarly buzz-saw guitar throughout, tempered with pedal steel at the finish. Personal musical taste, as subjective as it is, had me at an impasse on “It’s Easy (Like Walking),” a song they did with buddy Kurt Vile. Upon first hearing it, I found the seemingly endless repetition of the title so annoying, I almost threw a shoe at the computer. Of course, this was the song the band later chose to spotlight on their album PR. Further playing of it had me liking it more, as the tune itself is nice, but it still rests at #11 to me, in a collection of more enjoyable songs on here.
There’s a reassuring familiarity with “Through Strange Eyes,” a musical jaunt down a well-traveled road in their canon. It’s so infused with that pure Sadie’s essence, you’ll swear that you’ve heard it before. That old familiarity is also imbued in several other numbers herein, “Riverview Fog,” “The Good Years,” “The Noise Museum,” and the totally amazing “The Elements Song” “The Elements Song” may well be the magnum opus here, an alchemical blending of musical elements, a sativa-induced swirl of guitars, pedal steel, harpsichord, bass and angels dancing on the head of a pin. They take a turn down a country road to meet their sweetheart at the rodeo on “God Bless The Infidels,” with its soaring pedal steel, plunking banjo and fiddle sawing.
“As Above, So Below,” is an introspective ballad that confabs Hermetic notions with affecting, airy, wistfulness, a theme that permeates much of the album. That same mood carries over into “Questions I’ve Never Asked,”
“Finding answers to questions I’ve never asked,
Like how long forever is going to last.’
Another rather glum, soul-searching pronouncement, infused within a melancholy tune.
“The Noise Museum” rounds out the album, with a lush-as-fuck, psychedelic instrumental throwback to earlier material like, “Empty The Chamber,” “A Burning Snowman,” “Ten More Songs,” “The Curdled Journey” and “The Lesser Key.” This particular musical style has always been something that they excel at and are unparalleled.
Northern Passages shines as yet another jewel in their crowning achievements, setting hope against hope, that it’s follow-up won’t take as long to arrive next time.
DOWNLOAD: “The Elements Song,“ “The Noise Museum,” “Through Strange Eyes,” and “Another Season Again.“