On October 5th, 1993, Mazzy Star released their second, moving, album So Tonight That I Might See. The mood is not for every one, but it works fine for me. Melancholy, ‘dreamy’ and intense. The story on Mazzy Star and their best (?) album.
Mazzy Star is an American band that was founded in 1989 when David Roback invited friend Hope Sandoval to provide vocals in his band. David Roback had been active in music since the early 1980’s and played in bands like The Rain Parade, Clay Allison and Opal. The last band predated the later Mazzy Star.
Hope Sandoval, also, had been active for years. Recordings of her band Going Home found their way to Roback. He was impressed and suggested to produce the band. An album never materialized. When Opal’s singer quit in the middle of a tour, he asked whether Sandoval would be willing to replace her. Mazzy Star was founded soon after.
The debut album She Hangs Brightly was released in 1990. It wasn’t very successful, but it did receive a fair amount of airplay on alternative rock radio stations. The second album So Tonight That I Might See followed in 1993. The song Fade Into You turned into a hit in 1994. The album reached platinum status in 1995. To this day, it is Mazzy Star’s most successful album.
So Tonight That I Might See
I discovered this album relatively late, but it turned into an ‘all-time favorite’ in record time. Something about the music and mood pleases me greatly. Is it the melancholy, romance, emotion, hypnosis? Probably all of the above. I can not recommend this album enough.
Musically, the album doesn’t differ too much from She Hangs Brightly, but on this album everything fits. The flow, the production, Sandoval’s vocals and the simple, yet effective instrumentation provides the songs with the opportunity to show how good they are. The music is classified as alternative rock and ‘dream’ pop. Both terms fall short in regards to the actual content.
To do the album justice, I will go through the album song by song.
Fade Into You is the best-known Mazzy Star song. The chord sequence resembles Bob Dylan’s Knockin’ On Heavens Door, but as the song progresses it really isn’t that obvious. It is the most ‘traditional’ pop song on the album, and it is one of the greatest songs within Mazzy Star’s entire body of work. It really sets the bar for the rest of the album. The sound is warm, and the sound is rather abstract, yet beautiful.
I want to hold the hand inside you
I want to take a breath that’s true
I look to you and I see nothing
I look to you to see the truth
You live your life, you go in shadows
You’ll come apart and you’ll go blind
Some kind of night into your darkness
Colors your eyes with what’s not there
Fade into you
Strange you never knew
Fade into you
I think it’s strange you never knew
© Hope Sandoval, 1993
The song’s meaning is somewhat unclear. Is it about the disappointment upon realizing that a lover is less ‘good’ as was expected? Is it about someone whose love for another is so great, yet the other is completely oblivious to it? It doesn’t really matter. It’s one of those songs you never really get tired of, because of the emotion and the feel it summons (the same way that Bowie’s “Heroes” never tires).
Bells Ring is a lot heavier than the preceding song, even though ‘heavy’ is relative. A great song with a stop/start structure. Beautiful guitar parts are hidden in the mix.
Mary Of Silence is one of the reasons the band/album is classified as ‘dream’ pop. Beautiful song with a drone like bass and (Hammond) organ, which reminds me of The Doors’ The End, even though it doesn’t really resemble it… One again great feedback and distorted guitars in the background.
Five String Serenade is the only song not written by Roback and Sandoval. It’s a cover of a song by Arthur Lee, who is famous for his role in the 1960’s psychedelic rock band Love. This song clearly demonstrates Mazzy Star’s golden formula. The song is kept very low-key with a strumming guitar, bass and tambourine. It really brings out the best of the song. Goosebumps inducing sad and impressive performance.
Blue Light is equally beautiful. Quiet music played at a slow bluesy pace: There’s a world outside my doorstep.
The second side of the vinyl album starts off with She’s My Baby. Great uptempo song with spoken/sung vocals. Once again intriguing guitar parts hidden in the background. Glorious song.
Unreflected is in complete contrast to the preceding song. Acoustic guitar with minimal percussion. The repetition of the central motif is addictive.
In our memories / We don’t have much to say / We don’t have much to say / We don’t have much
© Hope Sandoval, 1993
Wasted is a blues, which is slow, very slow. A great riff, bass and drums, with dreamy and distant vocals. What is it about (“I felt like I’d been wasted / … all day long”)? Drugs, addiction? As it is a blues song, it contains a guitar solo. Roback gets (and commands) room to let his guitar roar, although it is too short unfortunately.
Words can’t describe the beauty and emotion of Into Dust. From the first notes of the strumming guitar and the swelling sound of a cello, this song grabs you by the throat. Sandoval’s vocals are mixed to the fore. The sad, gloomy mood of the song is enhanced by the images the lyrics evoke, which deal with death (as I interpret it anyway).
Breathless and on again
Beside me today
Around, broken in two
Till your eyes shed
Like two strangers
Turning into dust
Till my hand shook
With the way I fear
I could possibly be fading
Or have something more to gain
I could feel myself growing colder
I could feel myself under your fate
Under your fate
© Hope Sandoval, 1993
Yet again a song that makes this album completely irresistible.
The title track So Tonight That I Might See closes the album on a high note. The lyrics are spoken over a repetitive musical theme that conjures up images of The Velvet Underground’s Venus In Furs. The music shows the album’s strength once more. Repetition works, as well as ‘hiding’ supportive sounds in the background.
Well, what is there left to say? If the album just consisted of Fade Into You and Into Dust it would be enough, but the album is even more. The music is minimalist, yet ingeniously produced and sets the mood perfectly time and again. The same applies to Sandoval’s vocals. Her lyrics are not very clear, but nonetheless add to the overall atmosphere. And yet, the album didn’t turn out pessimistic at all. It generally provides a soothing feeling.
The album was released at the time when grunge was in its heyday, a genre this album has no baring with at all. Hit song Fade Into You started to climb the charts after the shocking suicide of grunge icon Kurt Cobain. Maybe fitting, as the comforting music was there at the right time.
All songs written by Hope Sandoval and David Roback, except Five String Serenade which is written by Arthur Lee.
- Fade Into You
- Bells Ring
- Mary Of Silence
- Five String Serenade
- Blue Light
- She’s My Baby
- Into Dust
- So Tonight That I Might See
- Hope Sandoval – vocals, harmonica, guitar, tambourine
- David Roback – guitar, piano, keyboard
- Jason Yates – bass
- Keith Mitchell – drums
- William Cooper – strings
After So Tonight That I Might See
1996 saw the release of the third album Among My Swan. The song Flowers In December turned into a hit. After a tour Mazzy Star seemed to fade away. Sandoval worked with The Jesus & Mary Chain and Chemical Brothers. Roback started production work for others.
In 2000 Mazzy Star toured Europe. At the shows no more than seven songs were performed. But a new album was not made. Sandoval founded Hope Sandoval & The Warm Inventions and released an EP in 2000, quickly followed by the debut album Bavarian Fruit Bread in 2001, which was followed by Through The Devil Softly in 2009. She also worked with Air, Death In Vegas and Massive Attack.
In the meantime Roback had started an acting career and wrote music for the first movie he acted in.
On October 31st, 2011 a new Mazzy Star single was released: Common Burn/Lay Myself Down. The band toured in 2012 and released their fourth album Seasons Of Your Day in September of 2013. An American tour followed in 2014. That same year two new songs were released to commemorate Record Store Day 2014. At the close of 2014 a short (40 second) clip containing new music was published on the band’s Facebook page.
Once again everything turned quiet. Hope Sandoval & The Warm Inventions released a single and album in 2016, followed by an EP in 2017. In 2017 Keith Mitchell, drummer on all four Mazzy Star albums, died.
In June of 2018 the band released an EP containing all new music, entitled Still and performed at the Sydney Opera House, Australia, three times. At this time it is unclear what this means for the (immediate) future.
Unfortunately, Mazzy Star doesn’t perform much. Singer Sandoval in particular, feels uncomfortable on stage, which is probably the reason the band performs in almost complete darkness at their shows.
“For me recording is better. Live, I just get really nervous. Once you’re onstage, you’re expected to perform. I don’t do that. I always feel awkward about just standing there and not speaking to the audience. It’s difficult for me.”
Do you know Mazzy Star and So Tonight That I Might See? What do you think? Let me know!
Mazzy Star image: seafoodnet.info
Mazzy Star – She Hangs Brightly image: discosgs.com
Mazzy Star – So Tonight That I Might See image: boomkat.com
Mazzy Star – Fade Into You – Video image: vidmusic.us
Mazzy Star – Live Jools Holland BBC 1994 image: youtube.com
Mazzy Star image: hriscaulder.net
Mazzy Star – Among My Swan image: apple.com
Mazzy Star – Seaons Of Your Day image: pitchfork.com
Mazzy Star – Still image: pastemagazine.com