This year has seen an abundance of surprise returns from beloved acts, from David Bowie’s long-awaited The Next Day to My Bloody Valentine’s belated MBV. Like those records, Seasons Of Your Day faces the dauntingly high expectations of a devoted and eager fan base.
As Mazzy Star, singer Hope Sandoval and guitarist David Roback produced a run of three highly-acclaimed and surprisingly popular albums in the 1990s, each a languid collection of hazy dream pop. In the 17 years since the last (1996’s Among My Swan), little appears to have changed, and Seasons Of Your Day finds the band still trading in their murky blend of folk, blues and indie rock. Indeed, lead single ‘California’ – a slow, melancholy piece – could easily have fitted on any one of their classic albums, with its distant, strumming acoustic guitar and breathy, echo-laden vocals.
Newcomers might recognise surprising similarities to the dreamlike throb of Beach House in Roback’s arrangements, and the seductive affectations of Lana Del Ray in Sandoval’s ethereal voice; this once-pioneering band still feels contemporary and relevant, despite their unwillingness to change in any substantial way.
In tracks like the bright, country lilt of ‘Lay Myself Down’, Mazzy Star once again prove their skill at absorbing unexpected genres into their muted fog. As ever, though, over the course of a full-length album the band sometimes threaten to succumb completely to the haze, to wander over the fine line that separates engrossing atmosphere from pleasant background music. But there is much to capture the listener’s attention here, from the slow-burning organ of opener ‘In The Kingdom’ to the swampy stomp of closer ‘Flying Low’, and the album provides satisfying variety despite always adhering to the band’s trademark style.
The record peaks towards the middle, with the arresting build-and-release of tension on ‘Does Someone Have Your Baby Now?’ leading into the record’s standout track, ‘Common Burn’. The latter song’s almost improvisational looseness is particularly impressive, with layered, tumbling guitars interweaving delicately amongst intermittent harmonica and glockenspiel.
Seasons Of Your Day is hardly groundbreaking, but it would have been unreasonable, given their back-catalogue, to have expected anything more from this band than a fine collection of plaintive and otherworldly pop. Whilst the understated feel of their albums has sometimes made them more effective as background ambience than as foreground music, here the pair provide enough striking moments to capture even the casual listener’s attention. The result is an album that is, on occasion, richly rewarding. And as must always be hoped with long-awaited returns, this record succeeds even when divorced from fans’ deep nostalgia for the past.
Seasons Of Your Day was released on Rhymes Of An Hour on 23rd September 2013.