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The Sadies

Darker Circles – 2010 (Yep Roc)

Reviewed by Donald Teplyske

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More than some contemporaries, The Sadies record Albums. Less important to the Toronto band, it seems, are individual songs. What is most apparent when listening to any album from The Sadies - brother guitarists Travis and Dallas Good, drummer Mike Belitsky, and bassist Sean Dean - is that they craft 30- to 40- minute visions of sound: kicking drums, rumbling bass lines and guitars that swirl psychedelic and alt.-country influences and flavors into a concoction that is immediately identifiable.

As was their previous album "New Seasons," "Darker Circles" is expertly produced by Gary Louris. A variety of effects are utilized, but detract nothing from the central aggression of the four-man country-rock assault. Just when they threaten to drift a wide of the swath, a wisely placed mandolin fill draws back the wheel. Like the sun suddenly revealing itself against a gathered bank of grey, the groovy instrumental waves from this versatile outfit electrify an atmosphere of their own creation.

Frequently compared to The Band, The Sadies palate of influence appears even larger. Another Day Again has more in common with Happy Jack-era The Who, with Belitsky doing his cymbal-destroying best to out Moon Keith Moon, than it does New Riders of the Purple Sage or any other country-rock forerunner.

Much has been made of the album's darkness, but one wonders if that would have been the case had the album been titled differently. There is gloom within many of the songs, but that is to be expected; adroit writers within modern Americana witness much iniquity and disappointment. What is as apparent is the hopefulness and deliverance of songs like Tell Her What I Said and Whispering Circles.

Recognizing that the album as a whole is most important, the precision and clarity of Idle Tomorrows should not be overlooked. With a loping folk-rock melody that would have been embraced by transistor radios in 1968, on this track, co-written with Louris, the band hits their zenith.

Short-listed for Canada's prestigious Polaris Music Prize, "Darker Circles" is possibly The Sadies most complete recording.