The Sadies: Darker Circles (Yep Roc Records)
I was going to write a section about the important things the city of Toronto has given to the world as a segue into my introduction of The Sadies, but other than the Hockey Hall of Fame and North America’s busiest highway, I was left drawing a blank. So let’s just pretend I did all that and cut to the chase. The Sadies are from Toronto, and they’re pretty great.
While it seems an ungodly amount of people love to say “I listen to everything… except for country,” alt-country has actually been on the rise among people lately, especially in the so-called “indie” scene. Perhaps the folk-rock resurgence helped lend a hand, or maybe the “Omaha Sound,” with the slight country influences championed by many Saddle Creek bands, paved the way for listeners. No matter what the cause, a lot of people have now been exposed to this type of music, and it turns out that many feel a little twang isn’t so bad; in fact, it’s a good thing, and bands like The Sadies are producing songs that should lure almost everyone to the sound.
Darker Circles, the latest release by the guys Neko Case prefers to use as her live backing band, only shows how fantastic alt-country can be if executed properly. Slide guitar, along with the constant vibratos and finger-picking coming from hollow-body guitars and Fender Strats, helps add the country twang to a release that shifts back and forth between sadness and joy, the upbeat and the slow, and the more rock oriented and the straight country.
Songs like “Tell Her What I Said” and “Whispering Circles” create a sense of loneliness, while tracks like “Cut Corners” and “Postcards” will have the entire bar dancing and breaking beer bottles out of joy. It’s interesting that the constant change in mood actually doesn’t ruin the cohesiveness of the entire album. The band keeps certain elements present in all songs, which is just enough to anchor all the different feelings to one overall spot. Fortunately that spot is somewhere you want to be.
So while Toronto might not be the first place one would think of at the mention of alt-country, it has produced one of the best examples I know of, even if that doesn’t beat the awesomeness of housing the Hockey Hall of Fame. I heard all those old hockey players were drunks.