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The Sadies: Darker Circles

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It’s gutsy for Toronto roots-rockers The Sadies to open their album Darker Circles with a song called “Another Year Again,” given how doggedly the band has adhered to the same twangy, echoing sound on record after record. But Darker Circles makes a virtue of that familiarity, offering 35 minutes of songs about bearing up against the grind. This is The Sadies’ best, most focused album since 2004’s Favourite Colours; it’s full of strong melodies, beautiful guitars, and the ghosts of a unsettled past. And yes, it’s a little darker than usual. Songs like “The Quiet One” and “Violet And Jeffrey Lee” adopt a hushed tone, recounting tales of regret as though they were part legend, part warning. The mournful midtempo waltz “Tell Her What I Said” plays as a stark confessional by a man “smoking and drinking and smoking and dropping” while making promises that he knows mean “nothing against the will of his God.” And the chugging “Postcards” captures the feeling of life rushing by, undocumented. As always, brothers Dallas and Travis Good work with vintage sounds, evoking The Byrds, bluegrass, and ’60s psych-pop, and they’re smart enough to break up the routine with an unexpected mandolin solo or breakneck instrumental coda. But the highlights of any Sadies song will always remain the Goods’ casual harmonies and dueling guitars: one filling the room with reckless reverb, the other delicately plucked.