Toronto's the Sadies must have been in an especially Canadian mood when they were writing and recording their tenth studio album, 2017's Northern Passages. The group has always had a knack for creating a powerful atmosphere in the studio, but many of the best moments on Northern Passages suggest they've been channeling the golden days of '70s Can-Con radio. Echoes of the beautiful but moody sounds of Gordon Lightfoot, the Poppy Family, and the Bells float through these songs. They're most audible on low-key tunes like "Riverview Fog" and "The Good Years," but even when the band cranks up the amps on "Another Season Again" and "There Are No Words," the pins-and-needles feel of the wind across the prairies is somewhere in the background. Brothers Dallas and Travis Good are the multi-instrumental powerhouses in the Sadies (and bassist Sean Dean and drummer Mike Belitsky certainly do their fair share of the heavy lifting), but while the siblings have chops galore, their focus has always been on creating an evocative sound and feel. It's not hard to be impressed with the carefully arranged layers of guitar on "It's Easy (Like Walking)" and "The Noise Museum," where they shape their picking into something truly remarkable. ("It's Easy" also includes a vocal cameo from Kurt Vile.) As usual, the songwriting on Northern Passages is up to the level of the Sadies' instrumental skills, and Dallas Good's production adds just the right balance of mystery and force to the performances. Just like the Aurora Borealis on the front cover, Northern Passages is something mysterious, dark, and beautiful, and it's a further reminder that the Sadies are one of the truly great, original bands of their day.
AllMusic Review by Mark Deming