The Sadies Claim 'Colder Streams' Is the Best Album Ever, and They Might Be Right

BY Vish KhannaPublished Jul 20, 2022

"Colder Streams is, by far, the best record that has ever been made by anyone. Ever."

So wrote the late, beloved Dallas Good of the Sadies back in October 2021, taking on the task of writing an album bio for his own band and, typically and hilariously, upending the chore by writing an "anti-bio," which was both true and false, as most hyperbolic promotional essays are. With Good's sudden passing in February 2022, the missive and the album itself are coldly comforting because his heart, soul, ambition and serious silliness still feel palpable.

Produced by Arcade Fire's Richard Reed Parry and recorded by Pietro Amato (the Luyas, Bell Orchestre, Torngat) at Parry's Skybarn studio in Montreal, Colder Streams really and truly is a perfect Sadies record because it captures so much of what this unclassifiable rock 'n' roll outfit were (and still are) all about. It's clear and murky, raucous and tender, woozy and steady and, most of all, in its musical tone and eagle-eyed lyricism, it's full-on, unfuckably impassioned.

Dallas, his brother Travis Good, and their brotherly bandmates Mike Belitsky and Sean Dean are notoriously known for being about the work, collaborating with a billion people and testing every van's extended warranty by playing shows everywhere and constantly. Nearly 30 years since first putting Sadie in front of people, the dedication led to artistry at the highest level. Regardless of the circumstances that find them now missing Dallas (who drove so many decisions and fostered connections with the wider world) and releasing a posthumous work (which still feels sadly impossible to accept), Colder Streams is indeed the culmination of a lifetime creating an authentic, uncompromising amalgam of punk, country, folk and rock that no one will ever be able to match.

"Stop and Start" is a wondrous, tone-setting opener — a tidal wave of guitars and cymbals crashing forth, ahead of Dallas' gauzy vocals, intoning, "Seven years until the hex is broken / Seven years to endure the curse / And no magic words can be spoken / Potions and prayers will make it worse." This is pretty spooky shit and belies the band's darker hues and interest in things like spirituality and perhaps even Satan? Indeed, "Message to Belial," rendered with a ghostly evenness by Dallas and Travis, couldn't be plainer in its invocation of lost souls, demonology, heaven and hell, and where our physical and transcendent travels might take us.

Death and loss are here and, for some of us, it's intensely jarring. "More Alone" is a triumph of a song with lines like, "I paid my respects to a close friend I lost yesterday," and "We gave him tough love but it wasn't enough to fight back against his disease" — which could be about anyone but specifically references the Sadies' late friend Justin Townes Earle, with whom they'd planned to collaborate before his fatal accidental overdose in 2020. There's social commentary here too: "In this day and age, rage has become all the rage / And we choose to behave like wolves left to starve in a cage" signals that even the Sadies, who carry themselves with a certain timelessness, can be left weary by modern times.

Travis shines throughout this record and, with "All the Good," his voice is the least treated, harmonized, or multi-tracked one we first encounter. In the context of a busy, stirring folk arrangement, he sounds like the sun breaking the clouds. It's such a poignant and searching set of lyrics that Travis delivers with the deep gusto he's known for, and it's truly an earworm. In a different, almost early R.E.M. and Skydiggers manner, he accomplishes something similar with the pure pop (or relatively pure for Sadie, anyway) of "So Far for So Few," which is an in-your-face display of the band's ability to hook you with hooks.

It's no secret that the Stooges loom large in the Sadies' universe but Colder Streams might well contain the most direct connections between the two bands, sonically and in their attitude. Sean Dean's prominent and thumping bass and very special guest Jon Spencer's fuzz guitar on "No One's Listening" drives a Motor City arrangement and, beyond its suggestive hypnotism, Dallas writes with Iggy Pop levels of independence-via-alienation, digging deep into lines like, "I can do what I want / No one's watching me / I can say what I want / No one's listening to me / I can be myself / I'm not hurting anyone at all." Something like "Better Yet" has that same kind of swagger — a slow-burning, outspoken rage but with just enough chilly indifference to move on quickly after settling up.

There are also bold outliers and uncharacteristic experiments that give the album further dimension, like two pieces helmed by collaborator Mike Dubue of Hilotrons — psychedelic, harmony-laden interstitial "You Should Be Worried" (which was inspired by an interprovincial interaction in COVID-19's earliest days) and the instrumental "End Credits" — and the sincere prayer "Cut Up High and Dry," which is a skittering march. Meanwhile, penultimate burner "Ginger Moon" seems intent on closing the record, and your player, down for good.

No matter what comes next for the Sadies in the studio without Dallas Good, their legacy (and his) was secure before Colder Streams, but here's a record that punctuates and cements it. A flurry of emotion — joyful and pointed — and clattering noise blending into haunting sparseness, this is the record the Sadies have been working on capturing for their entire existence. Thankfully, and with bittersweet timing, they got it done when we most needed them to, making the best record that has ever been made by anyone. Ever.
(Dine Alone)

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