Monday 20 July 2020

10 from Hope Sandoval

The first time I heard Hope Sandoval's voice may well have been her gorgeous dreamy swoon on Fade Into You from 1993's So Tonight That I Might See album.

I would have been 17 and religiously reading the NME and Melody Maker every week, listening to the Evening Session and John Peel when I could. Hope Sandoval captivated me, with her voice, her looks and her style.

Around this time I was always writing lyrics and playing around with my guitars. I actually wrote a song with the working title Mazzy Star (Song For Hope Sandoval), imagining her lush whispery voice over acoustic guitars and strings. I still have the lyrics in an old folder that I found up in my Mums loft a couple of years ago. Maybe I should send them to her!

Mazzy Star always seemed pretty mysterious. I don't recall them touring often, indeed I can only find a record of them playing in Scotland once - at King Tuts in Glasgow back in 1993. So I've never seen her play live. Something I'd love to rectify at some point in the future.

Sadly it won't be as Mazzy Star. David Roback passed away in February 2020. Roback left a celebrated body of work from his time with The Rain Parade, Opal and Mazzy Star.

Mazzy Star released 4 albums; She Hangs Brightly (1990), So Tonight That I Might See (1993), Among My Swan (1996) and then following their reformation; Seasons Of Your Day (2013)

Hope Sandoval and The Warm Inventions were the post Mazzy Star outfit that Sandoval formed. To date, they have released 3 albums; Bavarian Fruit Bread (2001), Through The Devil Softly (2009) and Until The Hunter (2016).

So many have fallen for Sandoval's sublime voice. The Jesus and Mary Chain, The Chemical Brothers, Massive Attack and Death In Vegas have all invited Hope to sprinkle some magic on their songs.

I think the opportunity to work with a singer like Hope really inspires them to create some really beautiful, atmospheric, magical music. Check this spellbinding version of Cherry Blossom Girl with Air.

I've enjoyed digging back through Sandoval's back catalogue to choose ten of my favourites.

You can check this Spotify playlist and my musings and videos of my choices below.

Let Me Get There
It's all in the groove, let me get there sings Sandoval on this truly sensational duet with Kurt Vile. Stretching beyond 7-minutes, the band and singers are in no rush, there is plenty of space for everyone.

And it is all in the groove. Sandoval and Vile trade lines over a country blues vibe with a slight tinge of psychedelia coming from the reverb on their vocals. Some of the guitar playing is exquisite.

Vile sounds beautifully stoned while there is a chilled determination in the way Sandoval sings let me get there. Echoes of Lee Hazlewood and Nancy Sinatra.

A gem of a song.

Look On Down From The Bridge
Get ready to have your heart melted.

Sandoval's voice is fragile and beautiful as she sings How could I say goodbye? over a beat so gentle is is barely there, as Roback conjures stunning sounds from his guitar. The church organ creates an incredible atmosphere, listening to this with headphones brings tears to my eyes.

Look on down from the bridge
There's still fountains down there
Look on down from the bridge
It's still raining up here
Everybody seems so far away from me
Everybody just wants to be free

This is the closing track from 1996 album Among My Swan. It's almost impossible to describe how delicate and beautiful it is. Just listen ... with your headphones on and your eyes closed.

How f**king gorgeous is this song? One of Sandoval's dreamiest vocals. I could listen to her voice for days. Roback's fingers dance over his guitar, there is a gentle tambourine being tapped and all kinds of gorgeous reverb-y echo effects.

Close your eyes and look at me
I can't believe what I cannot see

A cover of a Jesus and Mary Chain song, Drop is the song that Hope chose to open her debut album with the Warm Inventions. I love the opening lines of the first verse quoted below.

The way you drop
Is like a stone
Make out you're flying
But you've just been thrown

Into Dust
This song feels and sounds special. At their very best Mazzy Star capture magic on record. Into Dust is exceptionally atmospheric, I hang on every word and sound.

Paradise Circus (with Massive Attack)
Sandoval's voice is set against very different soundscape. Rumbling dub like bass and little flickers of piano. Listening back to this song made me appreciate how little bass there is in a lot of Sandoval's song. Of course, it's Massive Attack, the bass is heavier than most acts, but it does rumble delightfully and the contrast with Sandoval's voice is stunning.

Love is like a sin, my love
For the one that feels it the most
Look at her with a smile like a flame
She will love you like a fly will never love you again

Asleep From Day (with The Chemical Brothers)
The Chems totally get Hope Sandoval and create a magical comedown track

The chilled build up and then the drop at 2 minutes 41 seconds is beautiful, for those of us who have lay on floors at friends houses after a night of clubbing, you'll know that feeling; you've had a great night dancing and talking with friends, now your energy has gone and you're lying dozing, dreaming, listening to music to help you unwind ... if something like this came on you would drift off blissfully into a psychedelic dream.

I've got a lot of friends
And they've got beautiful eyes
That make my heart feel surprised

Sometimes Always (w/ The Jesus and Mary Chain)
This duet with the Mary Chain never fails to bring a smile to my face. The chiming guitars, Hope's sweet voice against Jim Reid's cracked pleas for one more chance.

Hope stands firm but in the end gives in and lets Jim back. It's all over in 2 and a half glorious minutes. Guitar pop perfection.

Killing Smile (w/ Death In Vegas)
This song absolutely floors me with its majestic beauty. The strings ushering in an acoustic guitar and then the most gorgeous vocal.

You can spend your life behind my falling star
This life will meet you with a long and killing smile

Don't have a feeling but I wanna waste my time

By the time we get to the line And you know I want to the follow up with you is so hushed and whispered that you can hardly hear it.

This is my favourite song featuring Hope Sandoval, everything about it is just perfect.

All the while I spent my time making schemes
Now I know when things are always what they seem

The strings are heart achingly beautiful, the melody being plucked on a banjo (?) just tweaks the heart strings and I could listen to Hope Sandoval singing like this for days on end.

Fade Into You
Another absolutely sublime song. Another perfect song.

There is a reason it is is Mazzy Star's most famous sand celebrated song. From the off, there is a little extra urgency in Fade Into You, with the acoustic strum, with the dreamy slide guitar and even the beat. Sandoval, of course, sounds incredible.

I look to you and I see nothing
I look to you to see the truth

Everything is perfect. This is dream music, dream pop.

You live your life, you go in shadows
You'll come apart and you'll go black
Some kind of night into your darkness
Colours your eyes with what's not there

There is reflection and then the realisation that her love never knew.

Fade into you
Strange you never knew

It's easy to get lost in this song, so go on, lose yourself for 5-minutes. Marvel at its beauty.

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