Barbara Manning – “Don’t Let it Bring You Down” 7”
Forced Exposure, 1990
Acquired: Crossroads Music, Used, 2013
Years ago, I chronicled my affinity for Barbara Manning’s voice in a write-up of her album with the SF Seals. In my head, Manning is probably best known for singing the lead-off track on Stephin Merrit’s side-project the 6ths, which seems slightly a shame because her own stuff is absolutely lovely. Even when she’s singing other people’s songs, as she does here with a celtic-inspired version of Paul McCartney’s “Don’t Let it Bring You Down,” there is an intangible charm that immediately wins me over. Manning isn’t someone who is going to be renowned for her pipes, but her down to earth vocals are precisely why I like her music so much (her cover of Portastatic’s “Through With People” is also great, by the way). One of my favorite aspects of indie pop has always been not-professionally-trained singers having their way with pop songs. There is a real beauty in someone with a human-sounding voice singing a delicious pop hook in a world where mainstream pop songs are produced like sausages. Did I mention how good this cover of “Don’t Let it Bring You Down” is? I’ve listened to it five times in a row this morning and it is so pleasant. The way this song feels huge with just a jangly guitar, some light percussion, a celtic flute, and some aptly timed vocal harmonies on the chorus is a feat. The b-side, “Haze is Free (Mounting a Broken Ladder),” is a sparse and simple lo-fi affair that perfectly captures feeling of being in a pitch-dark bedroom after a nasty break-up and features lines like “I wish I could mail you a vial of tears.” It’s an interesting contrast to the pop majesty of the a-side, but welcome indeed.
Of course, I can't dig up either of these tracks on the web, so here's another Barbara Manning cut from roughly the same time period. Taste the 90s!