Opal: Happy Nightmare Baby (1987)

A modern-day psychedelic classic, and, alas, one that's hard to track down these days (and doesn't stream online), Opal was an offshoot of the Paisley Underground circle of bands, featuring guitarist David Roback (late of Rain Parade) and vocalist Kendra Smith (of Dream Syndicate).  They only managed a single album and a few singles and demos (collected on various off-label releases) before Smith departed; Roback replaced her with young chanteuse Hope Sandoval, changed the name to Mazzy Star, and recorded some far more commercially successful albums.

Opal is much less slick than Mazzy Star, with a rough indie edge to the recordings, though still mining a similar vein of spaced-out headphone jams that bring to mind early Pink Floyd, Hawkwind, and Spacemen 3.  Roback's guitars invoke traditional blues stylings overlaid with all manner of trippy weirdness, while Smith's smoky, understated vocals are dispassionate and restrained, like Patti Smith after a few tokes.

"Rocket Machine" is slow and bluesy with some compelling slide guitars; "Magick Power" is a Doors-like psychedelic drone; "Relevation" is a little more upbeat and poppy but still plenty dark; "Siamese Trap" builds into some energetic, blissed out jams; and close-out "Soul Giver" is an extended trip that again invokes the Doors as well as Rain Parade's similarly expansive "No Easy Way Down."  Meanwhile, the title track is the one song that tones down the guitars, a mellower, almost pretty affair that most closely approximates the later Mazzy Star work.

Throughout, Roback's scratchy electric guitars and Smith's ethereal vocals, as well as drony organs, intertwine into a restrained frenzy of telekinetic space jams.

The later work with Mazzy Star may be more melodic, and Sandoval's sexy ingenue vocals are more distinctive than Smith's aloof dryness, but Opal had more edge and a more willing embrace of energetic guitar-driven modern psychedelia. 

Here's a YouTube audio rip of the entire album:
Here's the video for the title track:
 Here's some trippy shadowplay backing "Soul Giver":
Meanwhile, just for the sake of comparison, here's a rough-sounding bootleg-quality live version of the title track with Hope Sandoval on vocals, shortly after Kendra Smith left the band but before they'd changed their name to Mazzy Star: