Barbara Manning/San Francisco Seals: Nowhere (1994)

Singer-songwriter Barbara Manning has long been a fixture of the San Francisco indie music scene.  Back in the 90s, I saw her a handful of times opening for visiting bands ranging from Yo La Tengo to New Zealand's Bats.  Most of her work as a solo artist and with various bands ranges from quiet, folkie ballads to harder-edged and sometimes dark and complex rockers.  But for a brief period in the mid-90s she fronted the San Francisco Seals (or just SF Seals), playing slightly more concise and poppy indie rock.

Nowhere (or Now Here) is a great little package, albeit brief (strip out the long instrumental drone track and it's basically an EP).  It opens with perhaps Manning's most compelling straightforward rock tune, the poppy, noisy "Back Again," an infectious burst of feel-good energy.  "8's" is another catchy track, with a great bass groove and plenty of guitar jangle; while closing "Missing" sounds like a long-lost garage band b-side from the late 60s.  There are also a number of great covers -- a terrific, faithful cover of Badfinger's "Baby Blue," the garagey-sounding "Don't Underestimate Me" (I forget who did the original), and the truly lovely "Winter Song," a cover of a song from an obscure New Zealand band (one of many Manning explorations into the New Zealand indie underground).

Manning has a pretty astonishing and sadly underappreciated body of work; highlights include her solo album One Perfect Green Blanket (streaming as part of the Super Scissors box set, combined with an earlier album), a blend of rousing rockers and quiet ballads; and her In New Zealand EP (pairing her with various New Zealand indie rockers).  But Nowhere is a great and slightly more upbeat introduction.

Here's an audio rip of "Back Again":
Here's the video for "Still":