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Album Review

Having built up a low-key reputation for their psych/drone/blissout combination, Dora Flood holds the course steady on Highlands, an album that's balanced between attractiveness and overfamiliarity. In ways, the latter isn't the band's fault — there's nothing wrong with the general sources of inspiration, touching on everything from drowsy feedback headnodders (thus the aptly titled opener "Stargazing," easily the album's best song) to low-key pop chuggers such as "Throwing Wishes" and "Where You Belong." However, the sheer amount of bands plowing this vein has long since reached a critical mass, and bandleader Michael Padilla and company don't necessarily bring the most distinct combination of elements to the table. The quintet are fine but rarely inspiring songwriters and performers, and the album as a whole seems almost too rote, easygoing enough songs with all the right elements — flanged guitars, wispy vocals, the right vintage sounds, titles like "Echoes" and "Experimental Phase" — but little to make one sit up and take notice. There's a definite sense of the brooding energy of the Church at its finest being aimed for here — especially, tellingly enough, on "Phantasm," which could almost be a song title from Heyday or Priest = Aura — but the sense of threat and intensity that the Australian group brings to its work is rarely on evidence here. Padilla's tendency to sink back into the mix in the songs doesn't help — it's not quite voice-as-instrument as voice-as-indistinct-contributor. Too often a song is made interesting by one specific element — say, the Vocodered vocal break on "Throwing Wishes" — rather than the whole performance. Highlands is at fault not because it's retro, but because there's no sense that Dora Flood have hot-wired their various loves into something that will stand out from so many peers and earlier bands.


Formed: San Francisco, CA

Genre: Alternative

Years Active: '90s, '00s

Originally known as Belladonna, this San Franciscan quintet changed its name but not its homage to classic British pop and psychedelic rock. In 1995, Dora Flood released an EP on American Standard Recordings entitled 1301. The group continued performing around San Francisco and the Pacific Coast. In 1999, the band released its first full-length effort, Lost on Earth, on Double Play. Touring in support of the record had Dora Flood playing in Europe, the continental United States, and Canada, despite...
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Highlands, Dora Flood
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