"Blanchard" - Hope Sandoval & the Warm Inventions
Fronting the '90s band Mazzy Star, Hope Sandoval--she with the gauzy, achy, reverb-drenched vocals--made a much larger impact on music fans of a certain age (and gender) than the band's status as a one-hit wonder ("Fade Into You"), not to mention her terminally shy personality, might suggest. The internet is crawling with people who love her, madly.
"Blanchard" will not disappoint them, but its graceful allure should extend beyond the hopelessly smitten, as it were. To my ears, Mazzy Star's music blurred into a nebula of echoing, almost debauched gloom too often undisturbed by an actual melody, despite Sandoval's resonant if downbeat charm as a singer. "Blanchard" echoes much of her previous band's aura, but eases off on the druggy haze--the reverb is toned down, the pace less dreary. "Blanchard" shares its ghostly 3/4-time rhythm with "Fade Into You" (itself brighter-sounding than most Mazzy Star songs) but gives us what that well-known tune never did: a chorus with a nuanced but noticeable resolution away from the relentless, open-chorded ambivalence in which the band basked. Sandoval doesn't dwell in the payoff, of course, but the shift at 1:36 is rich and heart-warming. As if, perhaps, to make up for the musical reward, the lyrics at that point become stubbornly unintelligible.
While Mazzy Star is still officially intact, it has not released an album since 1996's Among My Swan. Meanwhile, Sandoval began recording with a backing band called the Warm Inventions in 2001; two subsequent EPs were released, rather quietly. "Blanchard" is the lead track from the CD Through the Devil Softly, which is scheduled to be out in September, on Nettwerk Records. MP3 via Stereogum (note: not a direct link).