Best New Albums of 2013 – #6: Mazzy Star – Seasons of Your Day

Running through the end of the month (with a short Christmas break), I’ll be running a post each weekday taking a look at one of my top 20 albums of the year, slowly working my way down to number one. Some I’ve reviewed previously for Bearded Gentlemen Music – I’ll provide links where necessary – and the entire list will eventually end up there, too. But for most of these records, this is the first time I’m writing about them at length, making this a chance to explain my choices in a little greater detail. Last year’s list is no longer online, but for 2011’s Best Canadian Music click here and for 2010’s list, click here.

#6: Mazzy Star – Seasons of Your Day

It’d been a while since anyone had seen much from Mazzy Star. The core duo of David Roback and Hope Sandoval broke up over a decade ago, sporadically appearing together throughout the 2000s. William Cooper, their violinist, died in 2001.  There was talk about new material every so often, but nothing concrete emerged until 2012, when they released a single. Then… silence.

The long-awaited LP Seasons of Your Day finally emerged a few months ago on their own label without any hype I can remember. It was everything I wanted from a Mazzy LP. Subdued, low-key songs, strummed acoustic guitars and Sandoval’s hushed singing. Steel guitars and sunsets, organs and empty streets.

On Seasons of Your Day, there’s a feeling I just can’t get my finger on: is it emptiness? “Walked up the stairs, the sunlight hit my face,” sings Sandoval on In the Kingdom, “See all the people just stand around.” Or is it optimism: “If all is right in the kingdom tonight, you know we’ll play songs in this town.”

I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the guitar playing here too: there’s always an acoustic playing, but usually there’s a clanging, bluesy electric in the back, coming out of some dark corner. Spoon features some great playing by the late Bert Jansch, but David Roback deserves a ton of credit, too.

I keep thinking about Neil Young’s On the Beach when I listen to this. Both are mellow records where the songs flow at their own pace (there’s a lot of harmonica and acoustic guitar, too, but that’s beside the point). They’re mature records by mature artists, grappling with darkness and wrestling light out of them. Unlike On the Beach, this album might be a capstone; the band’s vaguely hinted that nothing new is coming anytime soon.

Which leaves us with this, a fantastic document some ten or more years in the making. Sometimes, it seems fragile enough you could snap the music apart. And at other times, it feels like something good’s coming if you just can hang on long enough. Mostly though, it makes it makes me want to listen to it, all the way through, something I can’t say about everything on my top 20. One of my favorites this year.


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