There have been some excellent reunions this year, and I’ve talked about them in detail over the course of the year. One that slipped under my radar was the reunion of Mazzy Star; led by the duo of Hope Sandoval and David Roback. The band achevied massive cult success in the early to mid-90’s, gaining a couple of minor hits in “Fade Into You” and “Something Always” (a duet with Jesus and Mary Chain frontman Jim Reid). The band has been off-and-on hiatus since 1997; performing sporadically and working on side projects until 2011, then the band’s first single since ’97 came out, the double A-side “Common Burn/Lay Myself Down”.The band returns to recording in their new LP, Seasons of Your Day, due out tomorrow (September 24th, USA).
The album, which has been off-and-on recorded from ’97 into last year, modernizes the band’s ambient dream pop/alternative rock sound of the 90’s into something excellent and soft to the ear. Sure, there’s some 90’s nostalgia here, but there is something positively modern about the record. Mazzy doesn’t bust your ears out like My Bloody Valentine with distort-pop guitar noise; this is the softer side of the dream, and it’s better for it. However, Mazzy Star does accomplish something My Bloody Valentine did earlier this year with their record, mbv: They defy the sense of time. There’s no off the wall “let’s be 90’s” tone this album. There’s no “Fade Into You” Part Deux on this record. There doesn’t need to be.
The album opens with the organ-leading tune “In The Kingdom”, which leads into bluesy ambient guitar line and subtle but solid rhythm work. “California” is an acoustic somber gazey song that shows off Sandoval’s voice, as well as “I’ve Gotta Stop”, a more rockus showcase. “Does Someone Have Your Baby Now?” is almost like “California”, but throws in a slight country twang line that keeps it from sounding too similar.
The first sense of familiarity that peeks out is “Common Sense”, one of the double-A singles from last year. It’s super laid back and allows you to close your eyes and paint a picture in your brain, and it follows this pattern for the title track, “Seasons of Your Day”, though this song kinda leaves something to be desired. Next up is the other single, “Laying Myself Down”, a head shaker that you can grab your girl or boy up for a more speedy slow dance, and is one of Mazzy’s most creative tracks.
“Sparrow” and “Spoon”, the next two songs on the record, are real highlights. “Sparrow” is a low toned down blues wonder that has an excellent acoustic flow that doesn’t feel too stripped down or overly toned down like some parts of the earlier album seem to get sometimes. “Spoon” is a 6 minute trip through Mazzy’s entire catalog; it shapes around perfectly and has a nice sweeping bend to it, and features the late Bert Jansch to help weave an unbelievable hook. That leads into the final song on the record, and my favorite song on it, “Flying Low”, a pure blues good time that blends Roback’s unbelievable guitar playing with excellent harmonica work from Sandoval and is a perfect closer.
Seasons of Your Day is a solid outing for one of the biggest cult bands of the 90’s and is a great way to introduce themselves back into the fray. While some of the biggest bands of the 90’s are reuniting and doing so in big ways like Soundgarden, Mazzy Star is perfectly capable to stand behind and wait in the shadows, only to sneak up on you and catch you off your game. This record doesn’t need any over production or to be anything more than it’s supposed to be: Mazzy being Mazzy. While the nostalgia may lie in the shadows, this is a perfectly fine modern record and it’s definitely one of the year’s better releases. Ambient, dream pop, folk, alternative; whatever you call it, it’s good, plain and simple.
FINAL VERDICT: 8.1/10.
Seasons of Your Day is available on September 24th, via Rhymes of an Hour. You can check out more on Mazzy Star at their Allmusic page (http://www.allmusic.com/artist/mazzy-star-mn0000401287) and by checking out Hope Sandoval’s website (http://www.hopesandoval.com/).
Listen to “California” from Seasons of Your Day: