A week ago, I came down with a fever of over 101 degrees that lasted for three days. During that time, my throat swelled like a balloon because of something called peritonsillar abscess. I had difficulty eating, speaking and sleeping. I woke up every 20 minutes to hack up mucus from the back of my throat. I couldn’t drink water without cringing in pain. I lay in bed for two days and could not go to classes. It was a hellish experience. Finally, on a doctor’s advice, I began a strict daily diet of 1,500 mg of penicillin, 2,000 mg of ibuprofen and 3,000 mg of Tylenol, with optional hydrocodone for pain relief.
This diet was a godsend. My fever subsided and the pain of my sore throat slowly faded away. After being bed-ridden for three days, I was finally able to step outside. A brisk, autumn air had rolled through the city of Madison and, for several days, there was nothing but sun and 60-degree weather.
With this newfound freedom, I began listening to Mazzy Star’s Seasons of Your Day.
For the rest of my life, I will associate the California band’s first album in 17 years with the sensation of leaving a dank, dark bedroom of sickness and stepping into a sun-drenched city filled with trees showing the first signs of their autumn colors. Every song the album evokes warmth and tenderness. If hot apple cider had a sound, this would be it.
Seasons of the Day continues where Mazzy Star left off with 1996’s Among My Swan. The band’s dream pop sound is perfectly intact, complete with slowly-strummed acoustic guitar chords, twangy electric guitars and Hope Sandoval’s smoky, soothing voice. Given Mazzy Star’s extended hiatus, it’s easy to draw comparisons between their newest album and the first couple Beach House albums. However, it’s worth noting that Beach House’s sound is almost completely indebted to the sounds Mazzy Star explored throughout the early ‘90s.
From the start, Seasons of Your Day announces its ponderous, sultry tone and continues with little variation. Opener “In the Kingdom” unassumingly washes over the listener with a simple organ line, tremolo-tinged guitars and Sandoval’s sexy vocals. “Walked up the stairs, the sunlight hit my face / See all the people just stand around / If all is right in the kingdom tonight / You know we’ll play songs in this town,” Sandoval sings. Her lush imagery is the perfect complement to the band’s laidback yet longing instrumentation.
Several songs, including the melancholic “California” and the psychedelic, Velvet Underground-like “Spoon,” are worthy of comparison to Led Zeppelin’s more ponderous ballads (think “Going to California” and “The Rain Song”). “California” is a sparse, sinister song, with dark acoustic guitar chords and minimal organ and bass notes sustained underneath. Sandoval brings it all together with, “I think I head the whisper of my old best friend / I think I hear the bells ringing in the square / California, California,” before the song culminates in blissful acoustic guitar arpeggios.
“Seasons of the Day,” perhaps the album’s finest moment, combines Sandoval’s lovelorn lyrics of “I know you’ve been missing me / Well you know, I’ve been missing you too” with a gently picked acoustic guitar and punctuation from the most organic strings in pop music this year. The album doesn’t stray far from this sound, which risks turning it into a one-trick affair. But Mazzy Star injects enough space between its notes—enough breathing room—to create an exhilarating album despite its gentle demeanor.
Ten songs, each one of them warm. As the leaves turn red, the air turns cold and the apples begin to fall from the trees, put this album on and let it soak into your body. This album is a stress reliever. It’s also the perfect antidote to a week of sickness. This album is a cup of tea.
Someday, you’ll be 80 years old, living in a small house in a small town in upstate New York. You’ll be sitting on your front porch, wearing a flannel shirt and jeans. You’ll stare at the mountains in the distance, covered in autumn leaves and, in a gentle display of excitement, you’ll rock your rocking chair until it creaks. You’ll look over at your significant other, smile and say nothing. You’ll take a sip from your cup of coffee and exhale. That’s what Seasons of the Day feels like.
4 out of 5 stars