and the Warm Inventions
Sat Aug 10,
I cannot tell you how many times over the years I've cradled myself to sleep as Hope Sandoval's lullabies drew out the tears, then tranquilized me into a much needed state of dormancy. Surely it's the dreamy aloofness of her soothing drawl that makes her work with Mazzy Star so stark in its multilayered, mellifluous cacophony. Sandoval's vocals are often near monotone, but it's the slightest rise and fall within her intonation that aims and then fires the turn of phrase that can set off the most wistful spasm within the heart.
So Tonight That I Might See (1993) spawned Mazzy Star's memorable single "Fade into You," a bittersweet tale of discovery and swift defeat with a quietly masochistic introductory verse: "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." Former Rain Parade/Opal guitarist David Roback pulled back on the neo-psychedelic feedback that structured the 1990 debut, She Hangs Brightly, and Sandoval's sullen voice found footing just a rung above a whisper. Album-ender "Into Dust" slides coolly into oblivion with the final lines, "It was you breathless and tall/I could feel my eyes turning into dust/And two strangers turning into dust/Turning into dust."
However, 1996's Among My Swan remains my favorite album, because Sandoval had truly found her most affecting vocal range by that point, and the incorporation of glockenspiel and harmonica (played by Sandoval) added a desolate, graceful element. I have a very soulful dog who sings only at the most heartbreaking moments, and without fail as we lie in the dark with only the boom box lighting up the bedroom, that dog will stand up and howl along to "Flowers in December" as Sandoval emotes on her harmonica just after intoning, "They say every man goes blind in his heart/and they say everybody steals somebody's heart away/And I've been wondering why you let me down/And I've been taking it all for granted." There are several praiseworthy gems on that album: "Still Cold" ("You used to say your heart felt like a stone/Now everything you ever wanted is your own/Still cold like the stars/That's just the way you are"), the country-tinged "I've Been Let Down," and "Look on Down From the Bridge," with its simple, firm sentiment, "I can't be the same thing to you now/I'm just gone, just gone."
Last year saw the release of Bavarian Fruit Bread, San-doval's solo venture of sorts, under the moniker of Hope Sandoval & the Warm Inventions. That the disc opens with a song written by her former boyfriend, William Reid of the Jesus and Mary Chain (the two broke up bitterly in 1998), signals her maturity as a woman and an artist. She's teamed creatively this time with My Bloody Valentine's Colm O'Ciosoig, and again there is Sandoval's lovely glockenspiel and harmonica. But O'Ciosoig incorporates none of the white noise and feedback of his legendary former band; instead he strums acoustic guitar, plays sensitive keys, and backs Sandoval sparingly. Rather than meditate on the sins men commit against love, Bavarian Fruit Bread is much more feminine in its acceptance of guilt, and consciously admits that women often seek out pain. In the cello-driven "Feeling of Gaze," Sandoval's observing a woman who has finished grieving and now, hair done up, is leaving home for a night on the town. Sandoval sings, "I feel alone for you/I feel alive with you/I feel a sin fading/Celebrate, celebrate." A moment later the hopefulness fades and she begins to grieve for the woman: "Gonna play my favorite song/Gonna play it all night long/Gonna feel a sense of falling/Gonna hush my heart so wholly." The quick turnaround of emotion is deeply sad. "Unknown" surrounds what it's like seeing a recent ex-lover on the street and, for a moment, forgetting that person isn't yours anymore. Soon after, though, ugly thoughts come to mind, and Sandoval lays them out in the barest, most naked of terms: "Saw you on the high street/A little bit out of love for me/Oh well, you'll always be... I'm gonna spend all of my money/Making you cry." The thoughtful album ends with the somnolent "Lose Me on the Way," a quietly discordant, just plain heartrending expression of release: "Lose me on the way/She's the flower in your eyes now/All the world's a flame/This heart will never be the same/Never...."