By: Shain Shapiro
This is confusing stuff because I know The Sadies well. We share the same hometown and I have seen them perform dozens of times, both alone and with a cast of legendary characters. Yet, in New Seasons (Yep Roc), the quartet's first studio release in three years and follow-up to the brilliant double set In Concert, is lacking. Instead of driving home urgent, intrusive melodies alongside razor sharp alternative country, folk and bluegrass, here The Sadies prefer to keep things mild and relaxed, restrained even. While this does create a few good songs, overall, it falls short. The Sadies are not a band based on ballads, and while they can write a few with the best of them, their power lies in their ferocity, a trait absent on New Seasons.
Both Gary Louris from The Jayhawks and Howe Gelb of Giant Sand contribute extensively here, the former on production duties and the latter on keys, resulting in a record that sounds more like The Jayhawks and Giant Sand than The Sadies. "Yours To Discover," the motto of Ontario's tourist council, and "The Land Between" are both good songs but lack any kind of substance or anything worth writing home about. Both flirt with plaintive pop progressions with a veneer of alternative country and fragile vocal melodies, but as a whole do not fit with the ethos The Sadies have solidified over the course of their previous five albums.
There is no fat to chew on here, and the songs are worse off as a result. "What's Left Behind" and "My Heart of Wood" are much of the same as above. If there was no context to overcome, these could be decent songs on their own, but as additions to The Sadies' canon they cannot keep up with the ghouls of the past. Whimsy has never been a trait this band excels at, and its overarching affect on this new season does not fit. Something is not right here.
Only the opening two cuts, "Introduction" and "The First Inquisition," along with "Wolf Tones" take up where In Concert left off, rolling through jagged hills of alternative country before settling in uncomfortable waters perfect for Travis Good's brooding vocals to tread in. However, the rest does not match up with the norm - a norm I am too engrossed in to accept anything new on this matter. Yet, maybe I have missed the point entirely. This is by no means a bad set of songs. It does not struggle with finding its voice or constructing worthwhile melodies. It's that it could be so much more that confuses me.
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