Category Archives: 2016

Hope Sandoval & the Warm Inventions

hope3

Last night, with some time to kill prior to Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, I found myself surfing the algorithmic waves of YouTube thanks to a hankering to hear Best Coast’s title song to their 2015 album California Nights. I’d never heard of the band until reading a review of the album in, I think, Mojo; and I was instantly smitten with that trippy song’s thick and hazy tones, which creep in like a dense fog at dusk. I ordered the CD the same day and, a few days later, featured it in this post – while mentioning its similarities to Opal and Mazzy Star.

And after listening to it yet again last night, I found myself diving head-first into Opal’s sonic undertow. Their 1987 Happy Nightmare, Baby album, as I’ve said before, is a true lost treasure. For those unaware of them, the band had its roots in L.A.’s Paisley Underground scene, and – if they’d stuck together – could’ve carved out a Sonic Youth-like career. But, while on tour promoting that LP (their one and only), lead singer Kendra Smith quit the band and, after releasing a few albums over the next few years, disappeared into the woods of Northern California, never to be heard from again. A true shame, as she was a talented artist and that version of the band was intense.

Dave Roback, Opal’s remaining musical architect, recruited Hope Sandoval to step into the void in order to finish the tour. They were already friends, having worked together on never-released recordings for Hope’s folk duo, Going Home. (In the clip above, that’s her to the right of Roback in the studio intro.) Here’s a full set of that version of Opal in 1988 Italy –

hope2

I’m sure it was difficult to sub for Smith on such short notice, but Hope pulled it off – and then some; and, as the decade faded into the next, the group morphed into Mazzy Star. While they maintained the same languid shoe-gazing psychedelia, Hope’s vocals are far more dreamy, ethereal and inviting than Smith’s. And, too, the dark-hued dissonance was imbued with splashes of color. (Or something like that.)

Here’s “Halah,” from the 1990 Mazzy Star debut, She Hangs Brightly.

Three years later, they released the So Tonight That I Might See CD, home to a classic song that (almost) everyone of a certain vintage will remember: “Fade Into You.”

There’s far more to the story, of course; and the Wikipedia entry does a thorough job in explaining it. For the purposes of this post, though, while jumping from one video to another to another last night – such as this one, “Flowers in December,” from a 1994 appearance at Neil Young’s annual Bridge School benefit concert –

– I discovered that, last year, Hope collaborated with Massive Attack (for the second time) on the song “The Spoils.”

She also released the album Until the Hunter with her own group, the Warm Inventions – which will likely be most of what I listen to for the next few weeks. Now that I’ve listened to it not once, but twice, I can say: It follows the Opal/Mazzy Star blueprint; and is, in a word, amazing. Here are two songs from it:

Ear Candy 101: The Yearning

The Yearning has an odds-and-sods compilation on Elefant Records due out on Feb. 10th: From Dusk to Dawn (2011-2014). As everything Yearning, the songs that I’ve heard are delectable slices of dreamy retro-pop – think Phil Spector, but with a more fragile, airier vibe.

Here are YouTube videos for a few of the songs:

And here’s a live version of one of the other songs:

(To learn about Joe Moore, the Brian Wilson-esque songwriter-producer behind the group, read this Indietracks interview.)

Today’s Top 5: River Deep, Valli High

On Saturday afternoon, while the world erupted into peaceful protests against Putin’s puppet, Diane and I – and two likewise liberal friends – weren’t marching in the streets, though we were supportive of those that did, but applauding, laughing and singing along (some more than others, granted) to Lights Out, a Four Seasons tribute band, at the Sellersville Theater in Sellersville, Pa.

Now, some on the right will think us daft for embracing progressive principles and me misguided for my view of the charlatan in chief; others on the left will ding us for drowning out the din of the day with the sweet sounds of yesteryear; and plenty from all political persuasions will likely find common ground in their contempt for tribute bands. Fair points, all. On the last: Lights Out are but the second tribute group I’ve seen; and like the first, a Laura Nyro act, we enjoyed the show, though exiting the theater at 5pm instead of 11pm was a tad disconcerting.

I hasten to add, my memories of Frankie Valli and/or the Four Seasons does not begin here –

– but, instead, on the Saturday Night Oldies show on WPEN-AM in late 1977 and early ’78. They were among the ingredients of the delicious sonic stew that the deejay, Michael St. John, routinely brewed. The first time I heard anything by Valli beyond that show, I think, was in a movie theater:

And, yes, “Grease” and other Valli solo tunes, such as “Can’t Take My Eyes Off of You” and “My Eyes Adored You,” were performed alongside such Four Seasons hits as “Sherry,” “Big Girls Don’t Cry,” “Dawn,” “Walk Like a Man,” “Rag Doll,” “Working My Way Back to You,” “C’mon Marianne” and “December 1963 (Oh, What a Night).” Falsettos flew fast and furious, the dance steps and hand motions did, too, and the entire night – I mean, afternoon – was just plain fun.

After the intermission, the group performed a medley of songs that influenced the Four Seasons and songs influenced by their hits. Not to quibble, but I can’t help myself: I doubt that the Eagles’ “Hotel California,” a ruminative ode about the high life, was descended from “Sherry.” It was the only flat note of the night – er, afternoon.

Anyway, for today’s Top 5: River Deep, Valli High – the Four Seasons & Similar ’60s Groups.

1) The Four Seasons – “Working My Way Back to You”

2) The Association – “Cherish”

3) Brooklyn Bridge – “Worst That Could Happen”

4) Spanky & Our Gang – “Sunday Will Never Be the Same”

5) The Supremes – “You Keep Me Hangin’ On”