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Low Flying Owls

A number of surprisingly good descendents of Spacemen 3 and the shoegazers have surfaced in recent years, but of the crowded field Sacramento's Low Flying Owls might be the best songwriters and most sophisticated arrangers. Their music conjures what's been described as a "dark happiness" with an almost diabolical warmth and driving elegance that matches its frequently sinister themes.

The quartet formed in 2001 and issued their debut album, Low Flying Owls Take the Scenic Route, a year later on their own Americans Are Coming label, garnering signicant press on the West Coast. A year later the band was back with its national album debut on Stinky Records, Elixir Vitae. The album never lets up, from the fuzzy guitar blasts that introduce its opening desperation celebration, "Glad to Be Alive," clear through to the melancholy almost-balladry of "Last Day on the Planet."

The druggy wall of sound that was British space rock's signature is certainly a major element here, but so too is the meandering acoustic psychedelia of Syd Barrett and the raffish tuneful whine of the often overlooked New Wave power pop combo The Only Ones. Low Flying Owls synthesize all of this into something confidently and completely their own that's equal parts dreamy ambience and swaggering balls-out rock. Without question one of the finest rock efforts of 2003, Elixir Vitae heralds the arrival of a major new talent.