Just as Shivering King and Others was a departure from Dead Meadow's earlier work, their fourth album (and first as a quartet), Feathers, is another evolution in the band's sound. It's perhaps the most polarized-sounding Dead Meadow album yet: a few songs that recall the densely heavy trippiness of their older work, but many more are restrained and almost poppy, pushing the boundaries of the band's music. Feathers' clean production also emphasizes its duality; somehow, the psychedelic smoke swirling around tracks like "Let It All Pass" seems even thicker, while the pretty melodies and jangly guitars on "Stacy's Song" and "Such Hawks Such Hounds" make them sound like folk songs gone vaguely acid rock. Jason Simon's vocals are also much more prominent on Feathers than on any of Dead Meadow's previous albums, and tracks like the slow, strutting "Get Up On Down" sound more like typical stoner rock because of it. Though Feathers' restrained sound seems counterintuitive to the strengths the band showed on albums like Howls From the Hills and Shivering King, more often than not it works. The aforementioned "Such Hawks Such Hounds" still has plenty of Dead Meadow's eerie intensity, and "At Her Open Door" finds the perfect balance between this album's polish and the power of the band's earlier material. The song is downright pretty at the beginning, with slippery guitars that sound oddly Western and Polynesian at the same time; it gradually becomes trippier and takes flight around the four-minute mark, when Dead Meadow's trademark wah-wah pedals come into play. Feathers' second half features more of the heaviness that fans have come to expect, particularly on the final track, "Through the Gates of the Sleepy Silver Door," which closes the album with a nod to the first track on their 2001 self-titled debut album and 15 minutes of heavy but spacious sludge rock. "Eyeless Gaze All Eye/Don't Tell the Riverman," meanwhile, boasts both a lumbering, Sabbath-esque riff and nimble solos along with dreamy slide guitar interludes. This is a subdued, lying in bed and staring at the ceiling kind of album, and coming after the majestic peaks and valleys of Shivering King and Others it initially feels a little disappointing. However, after a few listens, Feathers reveals its own, mellower pleasures, as well as Dead Meadow's versatility.
by Heather Phares