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Monday, July 05, 2010

Album of the Year? The Sadies Latest Effort Is Downright "Witchy"

Most of the time, the drive down 9th Avenue into downtown Calgary is uninteresting.  There's the blight of the West LRT construction and the thoughts of expropriated homeowners left in the project's wake, the never glamorous bus depot and the general commercial/industrial malaise that makes up Calgary's West Village".  Sometimes however, there are bright spots. 

Take, for example, the day in late May that I was taking the 9th Avenue trip into downtown.  That day, while drinking a sub-par coffee in my travel mug and getting through the grind of another typical start to another typical day I saw it - the marquee sign at local Calgary live music venue, Dickens' Pub.  Sure, I'd seen the sign on many, many occasions, but after never seeing a band's name that I recognized, I had become rather ambivalent to what was displayed thereon.  On this day however, the sign shone like a beacon of musical salvation.  The words were simple and plain- "The Sadies - May 29".  An instant double-take shook me to the core.  The Sadies? Wow.  Here was a band whose albums I had always enjoyed but that, despite their rave reviews for their live shows, I had never seen on stage.  I immediately, I bought show tickets for my cronies and I.  I also learned that the band had just released a new album - Darker Circles.

When the 29th rolled around, we hit a nearby spot for some libations to ensure that our minds were sufficiently limber to enjoy the show and headed to Dickens'.  Having never been inside, I was pleasantly surprised by the venue - a cabaret feel reminiscent of some of my old glory days at the Den at the University of Calgary.  The staff were welcoming, efficient and just rough enough around the edges to suit the place to a "T".

The band hit the stage, adorned in their usual vintage Western suits.  Before playing a note, they were a presence in the room.  The undertaker-esque vibe of the Good brothers is hard to miss.  As the music began to flow, the set was mainly new material from Darker Circles (which I had yet to hear before the show), which was a superb set list decision, given the strength of the new material.  Sure, they played "The Trial", one of my favorite tracks from New Seasons, and a host of other favorities, but the show keyed on Darker Circles.  The show was an energetic onslaught of the highest order and featured superb guitar work (the best picking I've seen) and a driving rhythm section that kept the sound tight and the mood "witchy".  Simply put, this was one of the best live shows I've seen and certainly among the Top 5 in Calgary.  The choice of venue certainly didn't hurt.

After the show, I had the pleasure of chatting with co-front man Dallas Good about Darker Circles and what the band's vision for the album was.  Trying to sound more artsy than I really am, I recall asking him about the album's mojo, expecting a surreal and mystical reply given the Sadies penchant for lyrics based squarely in the realm of the spooky, the dreary and the doomed.  Instead, Good told me simply - "we wanted it to be better than the last one".  Fair enough.  Let me say this however, they succeeded.  This is the Sadies strongest album to date.  Songs like the opener "Another Year Again", which features lyrics like "my old friends have lost their way, growing old is always hardest on the outcast, it's a dirty, risky game to play and someone always has to finish last" aren't lyrically uplifting per se, but the accompanying blazing guitars, cymbal shots and pounding baseline serve to make a guy yearn for the mosh pit.  My old hunting buddy called this album "old school Spiderman cartoon music meets Tarantino soundtrack surf music, meets old school Western".  I think that's about right, except I might throw in a witch trial or Blair Witch Project reference for good measure.  The grim "Tell Her What I Said", the driving "Another Day Again" and the brooding "Whispering Circles" are all first rate.  For a change of pace, check out the Lightfoot-esque "Idle Tomorrows" and the closer "Ten More Songs", an instrumental medley that leaves you wanting for more, and for the band to make that song into another album based solely on the ten snippets woven together to create that track.  Oh, I should mention that the album is produced by Gary Louris of Jayhawks fame, who perhaps should get some of the credit for being involved in the Sadies most focused, coherent effort to date.

What you have here is Knox's early pick for Album of the Year.  Let's see what the rest of 2010 brings.

Posted by Knox Harrington on July 5, 2010 in Music | Permalink



I for one appreciate your attempts to inject a little culture into this blog. One can take only so much politics within a twenty-four hour period.


Posted by: Publius | 2010-07-05 5:45:43 PM

You need to give us a little taste, though. Maybe a link, so we can hear a verse or two.

Posted by: dp | 2010-07-05 6:44:57 PM

Well, my curiousity got the better of me, so I checked youtube. Those guys have a lot of different sounds in their repertoire. I heard The Kinks, Hank Williams, and Leonard Cohen. With that sort of diversity they can't help but do well.

Thanks for the tip. I like these guys.

Posted by: dp | 2010-07-05 6:59:15 PM

Thanks guys. Publius - that's high praise coming from you given that there wouldn't be much of a Shotgun without you these days.

Posted by: Knox Harrington | 2010-07-06 10:47:37 AM

Here's a link to their video for "Postcards" from Darker Circles


Grab your sunglasses and enjoy!

Posted by: Shawna | 2010-07-12 10:44:04 AM

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