Reunited, And It Feels Good
This is how you make a comeback. California alt-rockers Mazzy Star, headed by David Roback and Hope Sandoval, formed back in 1989 and saw their heyday in the mid-’90s after the release of their debut album She Hangs Brightly (1990) and the mainstream success of the single “Fade Into You.” But after the release of 1996’s Among My Swan, Mazzy Star went on a long hiatus. Although the band toured in 2000 and again in 2012, Seasons of Your Day is the band’s first new material in seventeen years, played by the fully reunited, original Mazzy Star crew of Roback, Sandoval, Suki Ewers and Keith Mitchell, with a little help from Colm Ó Ciosóig (My Bloody Valentine) on bass and Josh Yenne on pedal steel guitar.
Seasons of Your Day starts out with “In the Kingdom,” a track that firmly establishes the band’s solid return to the music world. Shivering organs and clear, lazy guitar bends arch over a languid beat, accompanied by Sandoval’s signature seductive, dusky vocals. It’s got a bit of a surf-rock vibe, but toned down and polished. Mazzy Star have never sounded so sure of themselves as on “In the Kingdom” and this record as a whole. The album is somewhat more acoustic than the band’s older material—almost every track features a richly plucked acoustic guitar, like “Does Someone Have Your Baby Now?” or the quietly haunting single “California.” These songs, along with the title track and “Lay Myself Down,” are pared down and minimalistic, with just a bit of real country twang. “Common Burn,” likewise, has the same soft, understated sound and features an acoustic along with light keys and an electric sprinkling warm notes. Sandoval sounds like any old country singer here, her voice rising and sinking, completely in control.
Like some of Mazzy Star’s older material, Seasons of Your Day blends the blues and alt-country into their own charming, unassuming brand of folksy Americana. “Spoon,” which features a contribution by the late, great British folk guitarist Bert Jansch, creates a bluesy, western feel with its acoustic guitars and pedal steel. The guitars interweave with an infectious, frenetic energy, one of the rare moments where Sandoval’s ethereal crooning sounds disjointed and out of place. “I’ve Gotta Stop” and “Flying Low” are where the real blues begins: on “I’ve Gotta Stop,” muted acoustics give way to an electric jam with soaring bends and lingering, reverb-drenched notes. “Flying Low” shows off with a rocking, sliding blues riff and shuffling percussion, a low-down, dirty delta blues you might not expect from these Californians.
Seasons of Your Day isn’t strikingly new—it doesn’t sound that fundamentally different from the band’s ‘90s records, which could be because the record was recorded in spurts from 1997 to 2012, giving it continuity with Mazzy Star’s older catalogue. The differences are subtle, in the way the songs are constructed and mixed, in the way Sandoval sounds confident and self-assured, in the absence of the neo-psychedelic hints from the band’s older iterations.
Mazzy Star might not be particularly innovative with their new material on Seasons of Your Day, but they sure know how to play the blues. Here’s to reinvention and reinvigoration—and hopefully another record—from the reunited Mazzy Star.