The Sadies – [Album]

Saturday, 15 May 2010

What is it about a record that makes a listener feel it? I don't mean “feel it” like it makes you want to move, I mean “feel it” like it moves you. You – a third party observer totally detached from the events that inspired the music, separated from the creative process that shaped the songs and with no direct personal connection to the individuals performing – have the ability to take in the music and find a personal connection with it because it somehow reminds you of an event that happened in your own life, or perhaps it paints a picture in your mind's eye that you keep because it's beautiful and you want that beautiful thing to be part of you. How does a record do that? The truth is, I have no idea – but I know this: the proliferation of personal pronouns that appear in this review do so because Darker Circles – the seventh studio effort by The Sadies – affected me, personally.

A nostalgic air vents out of Darker Circles from the opening watery echo of “Another Year Again” as singer Dallas Good traces the lines that have appeared on the face of an aging beauty who never left the conflicted confines of a one-hose town and all the opportunities missed in that setting. There is a sweet but sullen beauty in the knowledge of times changing and years passing in the delivery of lines like, “The years have passed you by, and your face is all that changes in this town” and listeners find themselves remembering similar instances in their own lives; whether by accident or design, it becomes the sort of mutually cathartic moment that begs for action.

And then time seems to shift just beyond the two-minute mark in the song and The Sadies shift gears straight into the present with a set of incendiary guitar solos that run to the close of the song. While listeners don't know it yet, such a design encapsulates the sound and subject matter of Darker Circles; time jumps back and forth song-to-song from past to present which shakes the proceedings to their very foundations every time it happens – it's breathtaking.

Those constant transitions begin right away as emotional directions change completely between the lugubrious “Cut Corners” and the raucous “Another Day Again” and the wistful introspection of “Tell Her What I Said” and keep both the band and listeners on their toes to keep up with the muse, but all seem to line up in such a way that it's easy enough to follow, paradoxically. It happens continually too; the band jumps from depression and loneliness of heartbreaking scale on “The Quiet One” to sunny country-folk-rock (not unlike the most countrified, backwater swirling end of The Meat Puppets)  as they glance at but do not read “Postcards” before “Whispering Circles” returns to the dust-bowl of “Another Year Again” to start the whole trip over again, beginning with “Idle Tomorrows.”

It's at that point that listeners realize there is more truth to the title 'Darker Circles' than most anyone could expect. While the songs aren't samey per se, the trappings and images in them – how they watch time, lamenting opportunities lost references to timepieces and the regular trepidation of making mistakes or repeating them – reoccur regularly throughout this run-time, thereby thematically holding the record together as well as propel them through ever-darker circles.

Because of that pattern, there's no sure way of knowing what will come next from The Sadies. For most band, it's easy to chart where they started versus where they ended up through the run-time of an album. It's possible to do that with Darker Circles too but, in the end, while listeners heard some great things and saw some beautiful landscapes in these songs, they discover they're right back where they started. In that way, Darker Circles is a beautiful, picturesque and captivating musical cul-de-sac; it is a self-contained entity unto itself and it's comforting to revisit. It'll be interesting to see where the next road goes for The Sadies because, wherever it goes, it will be totally fresh – because no clue is left where the band may go from here.


Further Reading:

Ground Control interview with Dallas Good, singer/guitarist of The Sadies.


Darker Circles
comes out through Outside Music/Yep Roc Records on May 18, 2010. Pre-order it here on Amazon .

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