Hey, welcome to my "guide" to a few of my favorite rock and pop records. This isn't a definitive list, by any means, just some random comments about a few records that have stood out over the years, or that I've found the time to review.
This page covers the letter "M"
Magnetic Fields - see artist profile
Barbara Manning "Lately I Keep Scissors" (Heyday, 1988)
Barbara Manning "One Perfect Green Blanket" (Heyday, 1992)
Released together as a single CD by her hometown label, Heyday, these early albums capture the essence of Barbara Manning's appeal: introverted, lovelorn, a little dark, yet a little optimistic, innocent but not wide-eyed. Manning has been the poster child for the SF scene's indie ethos ever since she shed her early Sacramento roots in bands such as the 28th Dream Day and World Of Pooh... But we lost her recently, as escalating Bay Area rents made world rtavel sound like a more reasonable option. At last sighting, she was living in Germany, although side trips to New Zealand are not unheard of (as she was one of the earliest and most notable Stateside champions of kiwipop bands such as the Bats...) Manning's other albums, including those with the SF Seals and various one-offs with this friend or that, also have their charms. But I love these albums, both out of nostalgia, and also because they are so very, very lovely. Favorite tunes include "Sympathy Wreath" and "Every Pretty Girl", the anthem of dumped gals and forlorn fillies everywhere.
Barbara Manning "In New Zealand" (Communion, 1998)
Northern California's indiepop darling, Barbara Manning, has long had a sweet-tooth for all things kiwi, and over the years has recorded more than her fair share of Bats covers, etc... Here she hangs around with the cream of New Zealand's indie elite, coauthoring and covering songs galore. David Kilgour, Robert Scott, Graeme Downes, Chris Knox and others all pitch in... and it's all quite nice. For more info on this indiepop homegirl, check out this website....
Barbara Manning "Under One Roof: Singles and Odditites" (Innerstate, 2000)
Barbara Manning is, and always will be, San Francisco's ultimate indie superhero. She moved here from Sacramento in the late 1980s at a time when not a lot was happening around town, and ever since she has personified the low-rent, relaxed persistence of all the bands in a scruffy scene which has, frankly, just never taken off with same sort of success other towns seemed to attain so easily. Maybe it's the weird folkie, post-punk eclecticism that San Franciscans bring to the table that holds them back. Or perhaps we're all just too comfortable ordering lattes and awesome pastries at local cafes to be able to summon the will to hit the road and conquer the world. At any rate, Manning has a lot of friends who remain local legends only, and who have helped her make a lot of great records over the years. This disc collects many of her best one-off recordings, culled from a variety of singles, EPs and compilation albums, and it's a nice travelogue of her varied interests, from Beatles and country covers to various kiwi pop tunes from folks such as the Verlaines. Manning fans owe it to themselves to snag this disc while they can -- it'd take you forever to find all the original records, and the album itself is a very nice reminder of why we have always loved her work.
The Mr. T Experience - see artist profile
The Monks "Black Monk Time" (Infinite Zero, 1997)
Everybody's favorite proto-punkers, the Monks do have a truly great story behind them. Back in 1966, while all the kids in America were plugging in and pounding away at various surf, garage and Merseybeat fads, the Monks were stationed in some US Marine Corps barracks off in Germany. So while pop was the order of the day back home, by contrast these guys were pretty pissed off and aggro. Well, that's the official story... and since I wasn't there at the time, I'll have to pass it along. This album came out overseas, but never made it into the hearts and minds of the kids in the States... which isn't overly surprising, since between the cartoonish anti-war anthems and their buzzsaw sonic assault, this wasn't exactly the sort of record you'd imaging showing up on Murray The K's playlist. The most striking thing about the Monks, though, was their sound... A full year or more before the Velvet Underground had made their mark as the grandfathers of punk, the Monks had already brewed up a remarkably similar style -- ugly, abrasive, and challengingly noise-oriented. It was also built on the same style of repetitive, brutal minimalism -- impact through primal persistence. Sister Ray's older cousin Jo-Jo, the one who reeeeally had attitude. This particular reissue may be hard to track down, but there are other versions floating around... Whichever format you find it in, though, listening to this album should make your jaw drop and your lips curl... whether in a smile or an evil sneer is up to you.
Moviola "Rumours Of The Faithful" (Spirit Of Orr, 2001)
Very pleasant, very listenable, very mutable melodic indiepop with a heavy debt to Neutral Milk Hotel and their ilk. Like Beechwood Sparks, these fellows mix "country" influences in, but in such a subtle and guarded fashion that they waft by almost before you realize it. Nice record. Worth checking out!
My Bloody Valentine "Anything" (Creation, 1988)
One of the most alluring bands ever to vanish in a puff of smoke, My Bloody Valentine metamorphosized from a rather raggedy jangle-pop band alaThe Primitives into one of the most influential indie rock bands of the late '80s/early '90s... Their combination of melody and noise -- real noise, as in feedback-y, skull-piercing white noise and glorious dischord -- was one of the most revolutionary, overwhelmingly beautiful, pop sounds of the time. MBV took some of the techniques of the "difficult music" scene and crafted them into a honeyed pop format... Here, they are still in a fairly conventional mode, but there are glimmers of the breakthrough that was to come... and some might fine shoegazer tunes, as well! Worth checking out, although it doesn't totally blow me away.
My Bloody Valentine "Glider" (EP) (Creation, 1990)
My Bloody Valentine "Loveless" (Creation, 1991)
An utter masterpiece. Multi-layered, nontextual and mysterious, MBV's last full album, Loveless set the standard for spacy, swirly indierock for the first half of the 1990s, and was a significant bridge between the analog literalness of guitar rock and the mutable fluidity of electronica. A glowing, sugary masterpiece that runs the gamut from gorgeous to incandescent, Loveless is a boldly experimental pop release: built from heavily layered tape loops, it bridges melodic twee guitar pop, electronica and sheer white noise (ala the Japanese avant scene). The distorted, shimmering vocals are so ornate and heavily produced that the album completely redefines the traditional "pop" context and sits firmly in a world of experiential, abstract sensuality. Difficult to do justice with words, this one is a real doozy. After the release of this masterpiece, MBV simply evaporated, as the band's main auteur, Kevin Shields, retreated into a Brian Wilsonesque retirement. Rumors abound as to reasons and reunions, and from time to time a new MBV track or Kevin Shields remix will find its way onto an album or compilation. Regardless, though, of the future, My Bloody Valentine's past accomplishments are nothing to sneeze at.
My Bloody Valentine "Sooner" (EP) (Creation, 1991)
A companion to the Loveless album... If anything, this EP takes the sensuality of the album a step or two further, and is also more solidly tuneful. Gorgeous, actually. The droning, hypnotic, white noise-y "Glider" may be my favorite MBV recording.