Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Album Review: Hope Sandoval - Bavarian Fruit Bread

In the 90s, Hope Sandoval sang in a band called Mazzy Star. Their music consisted mainly of drowsy, langurous songs with a slight tinge of country. While they had their moments (1993's So Tonight That I Might See) I was never a huge fan.

In 2001 Hope Sandoval released an album under the banner Hope Sandoval and the Warm Inventions. Bizarrely, it was entitled Bavarian Fruit Bread and largely featured a collaboration with Colm O'Ciosoig, ex-drummer with the wonderful My Bloody Valentine. There's minimal percussion here though. The sound of the album, while not a major departure for Sandoval, was a lot more stripped back than Mazzy Star, featuring a lot more acoustic guitar and touches of cello, bells, harmonica and xylophone here and there. Hope sounds totally unenthused, but in an utterly bewitching way.

The album begins with Drop, a Jesus and Mary Chain cover (she used to go out with William Reid) and Hope's voice is centre stage over a strummed acoustic guitar. It's followed up by the narcoleptic Suzanne. This and Butterfly Mornings are perfect sunny Sunday morning music. On the Low picks up the pace a bit and reminds me slightly of less cringe-y Serge Gainsbourg (without the male vocals). Feeling of Gaze doesn't quite work. Hope's singing is great but the cello and piano competes rather than complements leaving the track sounding disjointed.

The stronger melodies are actually backweighted towards the second half of the album. Charlotte is another sleepily graceful track, while Clear Day is a quiet triumph. The vocals here are particularly enticing, lines like "gonna take all your troubles, gonna send them away"wouldn't work with other singers but they suit perfectly here. Around My Smile is probably the strongest track, a slow-burning torch song with Hope Sandoval at her most alluring. The chorus is like a ridiculous come-on, the line is "I got going on". Writing about it doesn't do it justice. The final track is an extended shoe-gazey type piece, Lose Me On The Way.

Avoid this album at all costs if you prefer rockier stuff or like your music to actually go anywhere. It seems like she has returned to music after 8 years. She is set to release Through The Devil Softly in September 2009.