Emery Recommends: “Flowers in December” by Mazzy Star

Mazzy Star is a drug for me.

Simple things, like “Into Dust” playing on an episode of The O.C., or an overcast day, or a particularly dark depressive episode send me reeling into the arms of Hope Sandoval’s spell-binding near-whisper: a narcotic, a salve.

Years ago, after miraculously discovering that there was much more to Mazzy Star than the (admittedly ethereal and lilting) “Fade into You” while holed up in a remote Washington cabin alongside a group of peculiar strangers and a then-new but ultimately doomed love, I was hooked.

In many the years after, my returns to Mazzy Star were often alarming. I might think, “Am I blue today or is this depression” as I loop So Tonight That I Might See for days, or “Blue Light” might be providing a soundtrack while I’m disassociating on a dark street during an endless January. It took me a long time to recognize repeated Mazzy Star indicated trouble; perhaps some distant part of myself used it as an alert.

Eventually, though, I decided to give up Mazzy Star as a depressant. But I couldn’t give them up completely, couldn’t stand the thought of a life without some occasional Hope Sandoval.

Enter “Flowers in December.”

I’d heard “Flowers in December” a thousand times, though Among my Swan wasn’t usually my go-to, but one day my brain wouldn’t stop playing it, so I turned it on. By then I was wary of my desire for Mazzy Star so I paid particular attention to my reaction. It’s a sad song, full of yearning and regret, but somehow I found joy rather than darkness.

I’m happy to report that these days I only use Mazzy Star for an occasional dose of cathartic blues. On this chilly fall day, for instance, though I have no personal struggles wearing me down, no sadness lurking in the shadows, I’m listening to “Flowers in December” and the rest of my Mazzy Star faves, partaking responsibly in a small dose of vicarious sorrow — a clean despondency, if you will.

(Song recommendation by Emery Ross)