Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Mazzy Star

Sound Familiar?

“Fade Into You”

Who Are They?

Probably the coolest dream pop/ambient/shoegaze ‘90s band ever. (Who wouldn’t want that title?)

Mazzy Star began as Opal, the psychedelic revival project of guitarist David Roback and his then-girlfriend Kendra Smith. The band was deeply rooted in the Californian Paisley Underground movement in the early ‘80s (much like the movement associated with the Haight-Ashbury district in the ‘60s, minus all the acid).

Kendra ended up leaving Opal (probably due to a messy break-up with David, though there’s really no proof of that), and Hope Sandoval took her place as lead vocalist. Opal became Mazzy Star and the band’s first album, She Hangs Brightly, was released in 1990.

She Hangs Brightly failed to make splash with mainstream audiences (though it did pretty well on alternative rock radio). After a record label switch to Capitol, Mazzy Star released the follow-up, So Tonight That I Might See, in 1993. About a year after the album dropped, “Fade Into You” emerged as an unexpected hit single. It peaked at #44 on the Billboard Hot 100 and #3 on the Modern Rock Tracks chart.

Mazzy Star failed to produce another major hit after “Fade Into You.” Apparently, audiences just couldn’t appreciate good shoegaze back in the ‘90s. The band’s final album, 1996’s Among My Swan, was the least commercially successful release, though it did produce “Flowers In December,” Mazzy Star’s highest-peaking single in the UK.

After a five-month tour supporting Swan, Hope reportedly “begged” Capitol to terminate her contract. Thus, Mazzy Star was no more by the end of 1997.

Where Are They Now?

Back together with a new album in the works.

Immediately after Mazzy Star’s dissolution, Hope began collaborating with The Jesus and Mary Chain and The Chemical Brothers. David ended up producing a few songs on Beth Orton’s 1999 album Central Reservation.

In 2000, Mazzy Star reunited for a small tour and hinted at a new album in the near future. That hint was obviously a lie since the album is set to drop later this year. Instead, Hope joined up with Colm Ó Ciosóig (formerly of My Bloody Valentine) to form Hope Sandoval & The Warm Inventions. Their first album, 2001’s Bavarian Fruit Bread, generally impressed critics.

In October 2011, Hope and David released their first new single as Mazzy Star in 15 years, the double A-side “Common Burn”/”Lay Myself Down.”

But Why Mazzy Star?

Their fourth studio album (and first new album since 1996’s Among My Swan) will be released later this year. In the meantime, Mazzy Star will embark on a festival tour, making appearance at Coachella and Primavera Sound.

What Does Sam Think?

Mazzy Star is one of many ‘90s bands that fly under everyone’s radar. This is understandable considering their musical style. Not everyone’s going to dig their laid-back sound. A lot of people may find it boring.

But it’s far from boring, guys. It’s textured, soulful, and just plain gorgeous. I do think you have to be in the right mood to appreciate it, though. When you’re pre-gaming for a party, your first thought probably wouldn’t be anything along the lines of, “Oh man, I’m so juiced for this party. I need some Mazzy Star in my life right about now. Hey, bro! Put on “Fade Into You”! And turn that shit all the way up!”

If you know anyone who actually says this, let me know so I can give them my number.

Anyway, Mazzy Star is a band that taps into your subconscious. They’ve taken the elements of psychedelia and folk rock to a deeper level. They can’t really be directly compared to other bands, but their sound stems from a mixture of The Velvet Underground and The Byrds. Though many bands in the Paisley Underground movement attempted this combination or something similar, Mazzy Star one-upped the competition with Hope Sandoval.

I know I talk a lot about vocalists on this blog, but that’s because I really pay attention to vocals. Hope has a very folksy voice and she doesn’t play up her range very often. While this may be seen as a “lazy” vocal style, it suits the instrumentals.

If you’ve never given Mazzy Star a try, I’d recommend listening to So Tonight That I Might See in a bath of warm water in the dark with some scented candles. It’s great contemplative music. Bathe in Hope’s voice. All your troubles will melt away.

-- Sam Boyer, reporting from the ‘90s.

1 comment:

  1. I first got "aware" in touch with them watching a movie called "In my father's den" when I was sixteen or seventeen. The movie and its soundtrack (including some Patti Smith as well) touched me and never got out of my mind. I love Mazzy Star and I was so happy lately to hear they brought out a new album! :)