Hope Sandoval doesn't so much sing as breathe, but it's a captivating breathing more so than some people's singing, even. She can be ethereal, though she avoids being vulnerable or cute by forgoing the lilts and chirps of her peers. She can convey an icy distance, without having to shout to prove she's tough. Her whispery, breathy voice feels as if she's allowing you a brief glimpse into her private self, but she leaves the mystery intact.
On her new CD, Bavarian Fruit Bread, Sandoval sings a little more than she did with Mazzy Star. My Bloody Valentine's Colm O'Ciosoig, who, with Sandoval, forms the Warm Inventions, rarely leaves his foot on the pedal as long as he did in My Bloody Valentine. The fuzz and feedback are cleared away, and what remains is a quiet mixture of folk and country though with the vocals and hazy guitar effects, it avoids being big-hair-and-tight-jeans country. Sandoval herself plays some harmonica, and her wizardry with the glockenspiel lightens the music. (It's worth noting that the British folk guitarist Bert Jansch appears on "Butterfly Mornings" and "Charlotte.")
Sandoval is at her most bewitching in "Feeling of Gaze." The song captures the moment of eye contact when two people realize their lust is mutual. A cello and bass express the deep, intense longing, while the keyboard and Sandoval's voice provide the warmth or heat. She sings, "Got your hair down low, like a woman again. Got the feeling of gaze at the doorway again." There's a thickness in Sandoval's voice, so that hair comes out sounding like hail. She reveals her desire, but manages to hold on to the privacy and quietness that are a part of the feeling.
"Around My Smile" picks up where "Feeling of Gaze" leaves off. Now the hips start to sway, and the intensity gives way to smiles. Both songs talk about a connection happening again. In "Around My Smile," Sandoval sings "Got me goin' on again, around my smile. And I got a thoughtless feeling inside. I've got it going on." All of Sandoval's lyrics are a bit of a mystery, some for the sole reason that she barely brings her voice above a whisper. This song sounds playful, though. It's one of the most uptempo songs on the CD, with O'Ciosoig's backing vocals teasing Sandoval's.
Mazzy Star's "Fade Into You" was a sort of anthem a few years ago, used in countless TV shows and films as the lonely outcast sat in a bedroom and pined, or else triumphed at the high-school dance. Sandoval's voice and the slow, quiet tempo of her music are like flypaper for a certain type of girl, even as they're like sandpaper for many guys. If you're one of those girls, Bavarian Fruit Bread won't disappoint. It's magical and mysterious, compelling and complex. Just like a girl.