Dead Meadow

Howls from the Hills

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Hailing from the nation's capital and looking rather like the teenage cast from the cult film Rushmore, Dead Meadow garnered many an accolade with its first album's surprisingly accomplished and highly authentic brand of psychedelic rock. The young musicians' subtle yet dazzling technical interplay lies at the core of this formula, where power chords and all other such outbursts are usually hinted at, but rarely fully vented through the soft haze of the group's stoner musings. With its flowing grooves and measured, slow stomp, the band's self-titled debut was a discreetly seductive affair, slowly creeping up on the listener when least expected. Quickly released later the same year, second opus Howls from the Hills reprises this same M.O., with only slightly inferior results. Solid opener "Drifting Down Streams" lazily swims into gear over its eight-minute sprawl and the more concise Zeppelin-inspired "Dusty Nothing" delivers some early fireworks, but occasionally plodding tracks like "Jusiamere Farm" and "The White Worm" come off rather like first album leftovers. It would be easy to peg these underwhelming moments as unfocused, yet "focus" is a tricky word when describing Dead Meadow, since a seemingly casual (or possibly carefully orchestrated) lack thereof is an essential component of the group's unique identity. And, like its predecessor, Howls from the Hills' best trips are saved for last, and include the haunting acoustics of "The One I Don't Know," the epic "One and Old," and the excellent "The Breeze Always Blows." A strong effort all around, Howls from the Hills makes up for its occasional shortcomings with a palpable sense of promise, marking this as a band to watch.

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