Album #47: Mazzy Star – So Tonight That I Might See

  • Released: 1993
  • Origin: Santa Monica, California, USA
  • Label: Capitol
  • Best Track: Blue Light

I read this morning that David Roback, founding member of dream-pop duo Mazzy Star, had passed away aged 61. A band that’s long been on my infinite list of ‘must hear more from’, it seems a fitting time to explore Mazzy Star and check out their best-known album.

I have listened to (and enjoyed) the band’s third album, Among My Swan, as part of some research about 1996 music I was doing a while ago. So Tonight That I Might See was its precursor three years earlier, and includes their biggest global chart success ‘Fade Into You’, as well as ‘Into Dust’, which made the charts in 2009 after being used in a Virgin Media advert.

Mazzy Star are somewhat on the periphery of the shoegaze/dream-pop scene, perhaps because they don’t comfortably fit into that genre. Unlike the oft-cited “big three” of My Bloody Valentine, Slowdive and Ride, the vocals are not breathy or buried low in the mix. Hope Sandoval’s voice is soulful and echo-drenched, giving many of their songs an unusually bluesy, folky feel.

From what I gather, Roback mainly wrote the music and Sandoval the lyrics, and the two perhaps come together best on ‘Blue Light’, a wistful and open-to-interpretation lament that’s stripped down, tender and filled with intriguing imagery.

Other tracks to pick out include ‘Mary of Silence’, which carries a droning intensity reminiscent of the likes of Bauhaus and Suicide, the folk-tinged ‘She’s My Baby, the murky guitars and tambourine beat of ‘Bells Ring’, and a fine cover of Arthur Lee’s ‘Five String Serenade’.

I perhaps agree with some critics who say some of the effect of the album is lost as it goes on (although the last two tracks are very strong), and I’d say I prefer Among My Swan at this stage. Still, Roback and Sandoval were clearly a pairing with special songwriting chemistry, and the reality of that coming to an end is a deeply sad one to face.

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