The S.F. Seals – Nowhere
Acquired: Love Garden Blowout Location, Used, 2009
I am aware of Barbara Manning through some strange avenues. Not really strange, but I've only heard her doing weird one off things and thought she had a great voice. A classic indie-pop voice. You know, not a trained singer or anything like that but a great singer because of this. I first heard her on Stephin Merritt's 6ths record Wasp's Nest, which was essentially the Magnetic Fields but Merritt assigned the singing to guest musicians. She sings the opening track, “San Diego Zoo.” Strangely, that record has become my go-to for when Jenny asks me to put on music when we have company over. Although this is mostly due to the fact that it's in the CD player and I'm too lazy to think of something else. The other place I've heard her is on the 20 Years of Merge covers record where she sings one of my absolute favorite Portastatic songs, “Through with People,” and totally makes it work. Anyway, how about the S.F. Seals. They're great! This record, at least. It's a really fantastic indiepop record. Barbara Manning kind of seems like Mary Lou Lord but instead of being kind of lame she's totally fucking cool as shit. I mean, she covers the Holy Modal Rounders (“Janine's Dream”) and it's fucking weird and awesome. She also covers Bad Finger and makes it awesome a la Nilsson. Man, I am really, really loving this record! Opener “Back Again” is the obvious jam, super super solid, but side two opener “Day 12” exemplifies the jangly, ramshackle indie rock I love. The bass sounds like it's being played by someone who doesn't really play bass, which I love, and there's a really rickety solo right in the middle and it's all great because it's carried by a really terrific guitar sound and Manning's excellent mid-90s vocal line. They also cover a Flying Nun Records band that I have never heard of. Maybe the only Flying Nun band I haven't heard of, Goblin Mix. And you know what's awesome? Whenever someone covers a Flying Nun song it always sounds like it's from New Zealand, even if the singer is America, British, whatever. There's something beautiful about a nation creating a defining sound. And there's something cooler about a nation who not only funds cool records, but allows that to be a sort of mainstream thing. This record makes me want to listen to Manning's former band, World of Pooh, and all of her solo stuff. She's got some Liz Phair in her, but again, she's way more legit. Honestly, anyone who can pull off a Badfinger cover is awesome. Her version of “Baby Blue” is so amazing because not only do they play it like an indie-rock song, but halfway through they bust out a guitar solo and start singing from the 70s. Actually, maybe Badfinger is just awesome and I need to listen to them. ANYWAY, this is an excellent record. The droney, completely unlike anything elseon the record “Demons on the Corners” is perfect for the Halloween mix I'm making to scare children, assuming we get trick or treaters this evening. I realllllly hope we do because I really want the Misfits to be playing full blast. We even have a skull on the front porch so people know we're legit. I stole it at a party last night and carried it home like a bowling ball. It is cool, and it's surrounded by indian corn, carnival squash, and candles. Anyway (for real this time), Barbara Manning gets an A in my book.
Here's Manning singing with the 6ths. It's pretty great.