Even better than the first time

Sade has always been a great singles band. When they write a hit, as they have on “Is It a Crime?” or “Smooth Operator” or “Stronger Than Pride,” they strike the nail on the proverbial head.

But when it came to making albums, the quartet’s fillers were forgettable — mostly meandering, repetitive mood pieces that fell short of being actual songs.

Sade’s previous album from eight years ago, Love Deluxe, barely had any singles — it was an hour’s worth of filler.

Now, Sade has returned with Lovers Rock, perhaps the tightest album in the band’s repetoire — and mostly devoid of any singles.

Sure, “By Your Side,” with its “Whiter Shade of Pale” feel, makes for an appealing first offering, but it doesn’t possess the wildly catchy hooks of “Never as Good as the First Time” or “Sweetest Taboo.” Not like it should.

Lovers Rock shows Sade moving far, far away from the bad porno soundtrack leanings of the band’s earlier work. (“Your Love is King” is great, but that sax …) They still offer soothing, soft, morose jazz-pop, but it comes across as sharper, more restrained, more subtle.

More seductive, really.

Consider Lovers Rock Sade’s version of Everything But the Girl’s Amplified Heart — a set of songs that don’t have much flourish but relentlessly pursues a mood that gives the band’s sound clarity.

“King of Sorrow” qualifies as a dark horse hit. The title track has one of those memorable choruses that linger hours after the album has ended. “Slave Song” is a terrific experiment in dub, one the group can afford to explore more.

There’s a lot to like about Lovers Rock. Sade has managed to spread the best the group has to offer over an entire album. Eight years is a long time, but it paid off.