Friday, July 28, 2006

Making loose the ends

Steel Scissors - Duane Keiser
Steel Scissors, Duane Keiser

Scissors - Barbara Manning

Walking Stick - Barbara Manning

Don't Let It Get You Down (Paul McCartney and Wings cover) - Barbara Manning

Wherein I make my annual plea on behalf of woefully neglected singer-songwriter Barbara Manning. Of all the musicians I've talked with after shows (not so many, but when I'm in a good mood and have a couple drinks in me, I get chatty), Manning is by far the sweetest. About 10 years ago, I caught her at the Empty Bottle and I've never seen anyone so visibly thrilled with her reception. Apparently, she and touring partner Chris Knox had played some other Midwestern burg the previous night to a sparse, indifferent audience. But that night in Chicago the house was packed and bubbling with goodwill. Manning praised my recently adopted hometown--nice, since I'd so often (and frequently since) heard the opposite about chilly Chicago hipster crowds. But the greater pleasure was watching such a fundamentally modest person unabashedly bask in the warmth of fans. Self-effacement, unfortunately, doesn't get you very far in the music world, even in (especially in?) independent rock. And thus she's been overshadowed by musicians who, I suppose, play the game better.

A couple recent events give me hope more folks will hear Manning and discover how wonderful she is. Rough Trade has included "Scissors" on its just-released Singer Songwriter, Vol. 1 collection (US, UK). And cool kids The Harvey Girls pay the song tribute on their new covers album (the free download also includes covers of The Flaming Lips, Bad Brains, Daniel Johnston, Blue Oyster Cult (!) and Billy Idol (!!)).

While you're investigating Barbara Manning's back catalogue (Amazon: US, UK), consider also these yummy records just released: The Knife's Silent Shout (US, UK) finally made it to the U.S., as did Archie Bronson Outfit's Derdang Derdang (US, UK) and Scritti Politti's White Bread Black Beer (US, UK). I'm enjoying Headlights' glossy waves of synths in Kill Them With Kindness (eMusic) and am still mulling over White Whale's WWI (US, UK). (I think I like it, but this one could go either way.)

Words Make You Tired - Headlights

We're Just Temporary Ma'am - White Whale

The album that's really got me giddy, though, is Tap Tap's Lanzafame from Catbirdseat Records (offshoot of the blog). Like Figurines, or perhaps Wolf Parade without the keyboards, it's well-written, impish garage pop. I ordered the special limited edition of the CD (bound in my favorite color, green) and it's gorgeous. Plus, there's a bonus disk.

Come On Feet - Tap Tap

So um, this is just to say. . . I'm about to break for a week or so to think hard about what I'm doing here. I'm a long-time and devout worshipper at the altar of fruitless endeavors. People who know me well might even say (behind my back, of course) that I'm dilettante. And for the record, I don't disagree. But lately this has felt even more than usual like meaninglessness. And more an obligation--even a source of irritation--than a pleasure. As obsessive as I become about hobbies and as often as I lose perspective when I'm thigh-deep in a project, even I realize a blog shouldn't be making me bitter. So it's time to try to recharge.

Yeah, I think these kinds of posts are lame, too. Whiners suck. So do quitters. But I dislike it even more when blogs I frequent take off for several weeks without so much as a see ya. So this is for you terribly kind souls who come round here regularly and indulge me for some damn reason: See ya. Soonish.

Feeling So Good (Skooby Doo) - The Archies


Blogger Ekko said...

Hey, A-I'm with you on the burnout/obligation thing. Sometimes I feel like nobody reads shit that I write, all they do is come and leech mp3s. Plus, I found out that Kingblind was hot linking me, which is really f-ing irritating for some reason but shouldn't be because what the hell do I care, really? I try to just think of my role as spreading great music but it does feel thankless much of the time.

4:04 AM  
Anonymous Neil said...

Amy, I've never understood how you find the time to discover interesting new music (or rediscover interesting old music) and write about it intelligently at such a consistently high rate. So who can blame you if you're feeling like it's all too much? If this is the end of the road, thanks so much for the level of thought and dedication you've brought to the site. If not, I can't wait to see you back again.

8:44 AM  
Blogger jon manyjars said...

I don't always post comments, but I read your blog regularly and enjoy your writing (and Ethan, I read yours regularly too!) I hope you will feel like coming back after you take a break.

1:22 PM  
Anonymous Melissa and Hiram said...

Amy, we know exactly what you mean about feeling like your endeavors are fruitless, but we want to thank you -- you've made a difference to us, and we are grateful for your kindness -- but more important, thanks for your support of people like Barbara Manning, who we dearly love and wish more people would hear and love too. We hope you have a great time away and that we see you here again after. Take care!

10:10 PM  
Anonymous Hiram said...

I'm not much of a kid, but I've had a crush on and loved Barbara Manning since I was a freshman in high school. Scissors (the version by World of Pooh) was the first song of hers I ever heard and I've thought she was amazing since. I once saw her in New Orleans opening for Yo La Tengo and I think it was easily one of my top 5 shows of all time. Plus she's apparently finishing her bachelor's degree this year. Go Barbara!!! Thanks for mentioning us and I'll support anyone who supports Barbara Manning.


10:22 PM  
Anonymous hiram said...

ooh ooh ooh and white whale is fantastic, great mention.

10:23 PM  
Blogger Amy said...

Thanks, guys. Just need some time to chill and pretend this blog doesn't exist for a lil while.

9:10 AM  
Blogger marathonpacks said...


12:05 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Amy, I was just fishing around and found your site that discussed me. It made me so happy to know I am still being listened to! Thanks alot, and just know that more people pay attention to what you are writing than you may know.
sendin love
barbara manning

8:09 PM  

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