The Sad Song Co – Saudade: Album Review

Nigel Powell (ex-Frank Turner and The Sleeping Souls) returns with a new album using his solo moniker The Sad Song Co.

Release date: 22nd January 2021

Label: Passive Aggressive Records

Format: CD / Digital

Now, I’ll be honest, I reached for this release as I’m a big Frank Turner fan (and Nigel Powell is the drummer in the Sleeping Souls). I can tell you now that information was of no use to me whatsoever when reviewing this album. In fact, I  wrote down the names of no less than six musical acts on my first listen through – Radiohead, David Ford, The Feeling, Alanis Morisette, The Candle Thieves and Unbelievable Truth. Not what I was expecting at all. Imagine my surprise then when I discovered that Powell started out his musical existence as a member of Unbelievable Truth. If you don’t know Unbelievable Truth, they released a couple of underrated albums in the late 90s. Plus my Mum loved them (and she hated most things I listened to in the 90s – and since actually). The Sad Song Co formed out of these musical ashes. 

Since you asked, Saudade means ‘a deep emotional state of nostalgic or profound melancholic longing for an absent something or someone that one cares for and/or loves. Moreover, it often carries a repressed knowledge that the object of longing might never be had again.’ So there you go. It is actually the fifth album under this moniker, stretching way back to a debut in 2003, and the first since Powell left the Sleeping Souls last year. This is a thoroughly DIY effort, being recorded, played and mixed entirely by the man himself and a labour of love, realised whilst hunkering down in pandemic-ridden 2020. 

Unable to work on his own music whilst touring with Mr Turner, he ‘rewired [his] brain’ to work on the eight songs he’d been crafting to turn the chrysalis into a butterfly. The album comes across as a whole sea of musical thoughts struggling to be tamed into something as restrictive as ‘songs’. It begins and ends on instrumentals. Opener ‘Saudade’ would not have been out of place on Thom Yorke’s recent ‘Anima’ film score whilst ‘Sine Qua Non’ (without which, not) acts as a more frantic, sprawling electro counterpoint to close out proceedings.

In between you have a mix of bittersweet full-on pop (Hold, My Saccharine), plaintive, emotionally charged ballads (Lighthouse, Deserted By Every God) and a lonely little piano ditty called Markasha Sunset, 25th May 2018, designed to soundtrack Powell’s happiest moment in his life (so far I hope!) As alluded to before, this is an album bursting with ideas. There are regular unexpected shifts in tempo and even genre – songs regularly straying into drum ‘n’ bass tinged musical freakouts. This is probably most evident on ‘These Tears Won’t Cry Themselves’. Arguably the best song on the album and possibly the track that sounds most like Unbelievable Truth; (go back and check them out – you won’t regret it) the syncopated rhythms complement the melancholic vocals perfectly to create something quite beautiful.

This is an album that warrants multiple listens and will reward you as such. You will genuinely hear something new every time. And probably become strangely mesmerised by the organised chaos of the whole thing. 

The Sad Song Co. : Website / Facebook / Twitter / Instagram / Bandcamp

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