Mazzy Star – Among My Swan (1996)

ALBUM OF THE WEEK

It’s been something of a wet July so far, no? Those brave or stupid enough to try picnicking in the park have to dress in gear that wouldn’t seem out of place on the set of ‘The Poseidon Adventure’. Despite this, a part of me quite likes this rainy summer.

It’s hard for me to think of a record that can soundtrack this bright and sodden time of year as beautifully as Mazzy Star’s third. ‘Among My Swan’ opens with a quiet roar from Dave Roback’s guitar which gives way to splashing, echoing melodies, with Hope Sandoval’s own spectral voice drifting over it all, warm and weightless like smoke. Relying far more on acoustic and organic sounds, and digging deeper into their love of country music, it’s their most earthy and natural record. While their first two could have been recorded in a deserted stately home, ‘Among My Swan’ sounds like the band are playing in a log cabin by a lake, while a deluge rages outside.

The songs, of course, are just as great and atmospheric as ever. ‘Rhymes of an Hour’ is the sound of waking up hung-over, completely unready for what the world’s going to throw at you; ‘Still Cold’ makes a breakup into something quietly triumphant (largely thanks to Roback’s cavernous, bluesy guitar work) while ‘I’ve Been Let Down’, despite its pessimistic title, is their happiest and most content song to date, stripped back to just guitar and harmonica. Probably the record’s highest point, however, is ‘Roseblood’, a blurred and rumbling shoegaze classic that spirals its way to a close with bending and stretching Robert-Fripp-style guitars.

Mazzy Star went on hiatus after this wonderful third LP, but they’re back this year, after sixteen years, with their fourth and if it’s half as good as these three (‘She Hangs Brightly’ – a favourite of Kurt Cobain’s -, ‘So Tonight That I Might See’ and ‘Among My Swan’) then we should consider ourselves lucky.
For fans of Low, The Jesus and Mary Chain and Cowboy Junkies

– Joe Anthony Hill

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