Today is the birthday of Hope Sandoval, and our love for her can be best understood with a brief anecdote from your humble reporter. Having listened to her through the walls of my big sister's bedroom for years, I was certain the girl with the breathy, angelic voice was actually named Mazzy Star. I could not understand that it was her band, not her alter ego.
This makes sense: It'd be difficult for anyone to separate the sweet babeliness of Hope Sandoval herself from the delicate, dreamy pop she's crafted for over two decades. (Although she briefly performed in a folk duo, Going Home, back in 1986, that album is still not released. Boxed set idea?)
Pre-Mazzy Star, Sandoval performed with Kendra Smith and David Roback as Opal before re-forming the group as Mazzy Star after Smith took off. She Hangs Brightly (1990) did not gain the same initial success that So Tonight That I Might See (1993) did, and "Fade Into You" has since found its way onto -- we'd estimate -- 25 percent of every soundtrack ever. (Seriously: Though you probably remember hearing it in Reality Bites, it was also in Starship Troopers, and Wikipedia claims it's been used on CSI: Miami more than four times.)
Since Mazzy Star's third and last album, Among My Swan, Sandoval's dream-girl status has found her recording with the likes of the Jesus and Mary Chain and performing with her band, the Warm Inventions, at All Tomorrow's Parties, at the request of Jim Jarmusch.
Still, she remains quiet, under the radar, and out of the spotlight, even during performances. It seems that's less attributed to actual shyness than it is to her distate for what the Quietus referred to as "media hoopla." She's remained obscure for a reason and has been known to disregard the traditional audience-performer relationship, supposedly quitting midway or asking the audience to quiet down.
Sandoval became a famous pop star without intending to and has had to adjust accordingly. In that same Quietus interview with David Gavan, she explained her idea of a successful show: "Just one that sounds good and, because it's live, it should have other dimensions... But it's difficult for me to get there -- really difficult -- because I'm the one at the front... Sometimes it's awkward singing live in front of 500 people."
She's done a good job of masking the awkwardness and remaining mysterious without being completely elusive. Close enough to love her, distant enough to love her more: Hope Sandoval is the perfect pop star. Listen to her cover of Air's "Cherry Blossom Girl" and you'll feel the same way.