Solitude Sounds: Mazzy Star – Among My Swan
by Killian Laher
This was Hope Sandoval and David Roback’s third album as Mazzy Star. It came out in 1996, and was relatively unheralded, without a ‘big’ single like Fade Into You. Growling guitars introduce Disappear, underneath Roback’s languid guitar licks and Sandoval’s draggy vocals that you almost sink into. Flowers In December is an attempt to reach for the atmosphere of Fade Into You, with lazy harmonica and strummed guitar, however the chord progression borrows a little too heavily from Neil Young’s Through My Sails for comfort. Rhymes of an Hour feels like a long-lost late 60’s folk tune, like something off of Nico’s Chelsea Girls, minus the Germanic vocals.
Breezy, laid back country is the order of the day on the pedal-steel tinged Cry,Cry, which sounds effortlessly simple. The stripped down material works really well to allow Sandoval’s voice to take centre stage on Take Everything (featuring a fine guitar solo from Jesus and Mary Chain’s William Reid) and the finger picked All Your Sisters. Other highlights include the country shuffle of I’ve Been Let Down, and the warped grind of Rose Blood which nicks the chords of Knocking On Heaven’s Door perfectly.
It’s not all soporific, Still Cold incorporates a couple of mildly biting guitar riffs, but it’s a brief respite from the general slumber of this album. They always tend to include a droney Doors-like track, and this album’s is called Umbilical. Sandoval whispers her vocals over an eerie organ – I’m sure it’s fine if you like that sort of thing. The organ is played more conventionally on the slightly underwhelming closer Look On Down From The Bridge.
Like all of their material this album is the soundtrack to being practically horizontal. It’s not the Mazzy Star album to buy first, but it might be the one that resonates longest.