10 Best Mazzy Star Songs
Last year was a big one for fans of dreamy fuzz-rock duo Mazzy Star. In September, the band released ‘Seasons of Your Day,’ their first album since 1996’s ‘Among My Swan.’ ‘Fade Into You,’ the title of their most famous song, had proved prophetic — after three gorgeous albums, the band virtually vanished from the spotlight. Turns out they were just on a really long hiatus.
In the years since ‘Among My Swan,’ lead singer/lyricist/multi-instrumentalist/harmonica aficionado Hope Sandoval pursued a solo career with her band the Warm Inventions while guitarist/composer David Roback stayed in the studio producing for singer/songwriter Beth Orton and actress Maggie Cheung, with whom he costarred alongside in the movie ‘Clean.’ (Sandoval also lent her distinctively narcotic vocals to songs by Air, Massive Attack, the Chemical Brothers and more.) But fans who know their flawless albums by heart were glad to have Sandoval and Roback back together as Mazzy Star.
A common complaint about Mazzy Star is that many of their songs sound alike. But anyone who has listened to their four studio albums knows that Sandoval and Roback mix country- and folk-tinged dream-pop tracks with bracing psychedelic freakouts that show their roots in the Paisley Underground movement of the 1980s. And as anyone who has included one of their songs on a mix CD or tape can attest, they fall into the category of perfect make-out music, the type now being made by the likes of Beach House and Wye Oak. With Mazzy Star back together after 17 years, we thought we’d count down their 10 best songs.
‘So Tonight That I Might See’
An epic, droning freakout that channels the Velvet Underground and Syd Barrett-era Pink Floyd, the title track off Mazzy’s second album is a reminder of Sandoval and Roback’s early work together in the psychedelic rock group Opal. It’s also a rebuttal to anyone who claims the group is only capable of dreamy love songs.
With its jangly acoustic guitar and hushed vocals, Mazzy Star’s recent single recalls Led Zeppelin’s ‘Going to California.’ A perfect song to add to your “driving along the beach at night” mix.
‘Rhymes of an Hour’
This haunting track was featured on the soundtrack for 1996’s ‘Stealing Beauty,’ aka the movie where Liv Tyler frolicks around Italy in various states of undress. It’s also the name of Mazzy Star’s independent label on which they released their long-awaited new album.
Mazzy’s first album, ‘She Hangs Brightly,’ is a far more upbeat affair than their other works. An extension of their time in Opal, the album features fuzzy, psychedelic guitar blasts that wouldn’t be out of place on a Jesus and Mary Chain album. (Sandoval dated the Jesus and Mary Chain’s William Reid and sang on the group’s 1994 single ‘Sometimes Always.’) A country rock barnstormer that still manages to convey that signature Sandoval brand of heartache, it’s the rare Mazzy track that’s — dare we say — actually kind of bouncy.
Sandoval and Roback came back strong in 2011, releasing ‘Common Burn’ and ‘Lay Myself Down’ as digital singles. With its gorgeously distorted guitar backdrop and distant sounding xylophone, ‘Common Burn’ is like a lost track off of ‘Among My Swan.’ The opening line, reminiscent of Leonard Cohen (“Simple things like your overcoat and your beauty / That’s still burning me”), will have you misty-eyed and thinking of the one that got away. Ahem, sorry, must be all the pollen. Pollen made from feelings!
‘Disappear’ kicks off ‘Among My Swan’ with a blast of fuzzy guitars and a chorus of bells and chimes that set the tone for Mazzy’s third album. It then settles into a country/folk groove with Sandoval plucking at your heartstrings with lines like “I’ll never be what you want me to be / Now I can’t disappear.”
‘Flowers in December’
Featuring some of Sandoval’s clearest, most straightfoward vocals, this somber country-twinged love song contains lines like “They say every man goes blind in his heart / They say everybody steals somebody’s heart away.” Roback’s chiming guitar work is classic Mazzy, and that harmonica solo is worthy of Neil Young.
Built around a driving guitar riff (with some maracas tossed in for good measure), ‘Unreflected’ ambles to a haunting close thanks to lines like “In our memories we don’t have much to say. We don’t have much…”
‘Fade Into You’
That rare ’90s hit that miraculously doesn’t sound dated, ‘Fade Into You’ has been the go-to moody love song for many a movie and TV soundtrack. While the chorus caused many to swoon, Mazzy’s biggest hit still contains a pure shot of Sandoval sadness thanks to lyrics likes “I look to you and I see nothing.” Even at the top of the charts, Mazzy can still beautifully bum you out.
This delicately moving song took on a second life when it was used in an ad for ‘Gears of War 3′ in 2009. (It has also been a mood setter in films like ‘Foxfire’ and on shows like ‘The O.C.’ and ‘Rectify.’) Accompanied only by an acoustic guitar and a violin, Sandoval will make you shiver when she quietly sings about “two strangers turning into dust.” Hear it live in a room filled with hushed, awed fans, and you’ll instantly know why Mazzy Star could go away for nearly two decades and come back more beloved than ever.