“Bay area natives Mann and his backing trio are texture aces. Unlike other lo-fi artists (think Elephant Six), Jake Mann wholly embraces the past. Mann’s adventurous folk-inspired wordplay, psychedelic pop, and traditional verse/chorus structure shows influences from Neil Young and Dylan’s rambling early years to modern hooks and experimentation paved by Kelley Stoltz.
The bedrock of Daytime Ghost is laden with fuzzy, 4-track acoustic guitars, and conventional rhythmic support from bass and drums. All this enlivened with narrative by Mann’s Elvis Costello-like voice. The album has a reacquainted feel, similar to finding buried vinyl, and a sound that wallows in lo-fi, vintage production. Further influencing the nostalgia, Daytime Ghost clutches on to classic Americana inspiration — the vagabond — suggesting that it’s an album that seems created for road music.
“When the Tone Blows Down” offers a moment of modernism, where an undulating bass, sopping with distortion, embraces My Bloody Valentine shoegaze, and Mann, in a soulful murmur, sings, “Did you want to come over today / If you don’t think it’s crazy / We could go outside when it’s dark in all directions.” Literate and loquacious, Mann’s songs work because even where there is repetitious instrumentation, his unique vocals and characteristic lyrics elevate the songs.
Throughout the album, Mann has his fingers on a dark, rarely energetic pulse — an interesting approach to the chronic folk structure, a genre where idealism and optimism are nearly unflinching. Mann takes the road less privy, repeating stark soliloquies like “Somewhere in the depths of hell, they made a place for you” (“Edie in Hades”).
Daytime Ghost is a rough gem, an album that certainly takes warming up and patience, but once in the proper mindset, it’s an album with an enveloping effect, providing a lo-fi trance to fall into deeply, like a daydream.
– Christopher Petro, West Coast Performer magazine, September 2007
“When Jake Mann ponders his recent move from Davis to San Francisco, he puts it in terms of a song. “Left behind the right things I know / How does this one go?” Mann muses on “Beat the Drum,” as though making your way in a new scene were like playing a tune whose chords you haven’t quite learned. That SF has scenes at all was part of Mann’s concern. “People are specific about their genres here,” he notes. “I’ve always felt spread across a lot of sounds.
This is borne out on Mann’s new LP, Daytime Ghost (Crossbill). Made with a backing three-piece band, it’s low-watt singer-songwriter rock that’s almost shoegazily bothered by texture. The first thought — thanks to the skuzzy guitar and dirty-weekend vocals of “Flames at My Feet” — goes to some less vain Marc Bolan: all the seamy T.Rex aesthetics without the bad intent. But a more accurate ancestor may be the Neil Young of 1975’s Zuma (Reprise).
Mann lists the album as a recent “obsession,” and its meld of fractured melodies and grimy guitars is an obvious influence on Daytime. “Take You for a Ride” plays like unraveling country rock, its broad American horizons — “Those big skies won’t betray us,” Mann hopes — as ominous as Young’s had become.
Mann built Daytime over the past couple of years after the breakup of his Davis group the Zim-Zims, and it shows the marks of protracted writing. Evidently, the artist hasn’t quite decided his feelings on laptop beats, which pop up sporadically, though the sublime “Our 1st Assumptions Were Correct” shows he can corral them. Still, the disc sticks together, largely because those guitars have an almost tactile presence — we’ve always got a toehold. Mann knows this is the promise his live show has to keep. With a second guitar added and carte blanche given to vocal improvs, he claims they’re “getting most of it across.”
– Theo Schell-Lamber, SF Bay Guardian, September 18, 2007
“Although factually accurate, it feels like a disservice to call this week’s featured musician Jake Mann a “singer-songwriter,” perhaps because his new album, Daytime Ghost doesn’t fall into the traps that so many solo artists do, balancing the density of a full band work with the unique vision of a single authorial voice. The album is a strong, engaging work definitely worth checking out.
Lyrically, the new album contains poetic examinations of themes of urban decay and development, no doubt influenced by Jake’s upbringing in the Central Valley and his job as a mapmaker. In the interview, Mann jokingly dismissed the spoken word verses in a few songs as an opportunity to skip writing vocal melodies, but they’re more likely indicative of Mann’s general willingness to take risks that pay off well.
Mann draws from lower-fi sounds and a professed Pavement influence, incorporating the use of tasteful diverse as well as the support of talented local musicians and fellow alumni of the Davis music scene, like Payam Bavafa from Sholi and Garrett Pierce. There’s a real sense of propriety to the music, which compliments Mann’s lyrical imagery well.”
– The Bay Bridged – podcast feature, http://www.thebaybridged.com/?page_id=78
Trust Your Ears by Jackson Griffith
Sacramento News & Review – June 2007
“The new record is a real smart-rock charmer, the kind of road-trip soundtrack that deepens and gets better with repeated playing. Beginning with his former band the Zim-Zims, Mann has come across as the perfect NorCal analogue to some of greater New York’s finer post-Velvet combos, both as a narrative songwriter and as a guitar-wielding texturalist. Here he’s provided a cornucopia of sonic film footage. Ever see that haunting video of someone’s motorcycle trip to Prypiat, near Chernobyl? Daytime Ghost would provide a perfect complement to that.”
Visions of California
Maybe it’s like this everywhere, but, living in California, you can’t escape the state’s rich and colorful history, and the promise of opportunities that has brought waves of immigrants from across the country and the world. If the American Dream exists as an idea beyond a cliche, the promise of life in California has its own unique feel, influenced by the state’s unique growth and the role migration continues to play in its major industries.
As California changes, so do the challenges raised by its mythology, and new artists are emerging to capture and struggle with these evolving issues while still looking critically at the past. On recently released albums, two San Francisco musicians, Jon Bernson of Ray’s Vast Basement and Jake Mann, seek to reclaim these themes, examining issues of development and urbanization, of industry and the little guy, and how these big ideas impact real life.
Starvation Under Orange Trees, Bernson’s latest work as leader of Ray’s Vast Basement, bears the more direct connection to California imagery, as the album evolved from songs Bernson wrote to score a stage production of Of Mice and Men. Over the course of the album, Bernson visits characters from a variety of Steinbeck works, and you should check out his liner notes at Largehearted Boy to really understand his thoughtful approach to undertsanding their thoughts and feelings and incorporating his own as well. Lyrically, Bernson’s tales of isolation, hope and sadness confront the listener with Steinbeck’s continued relevance in modern California. Musically, the album is a diverse and engaging work featuring performances from a number of talented musicians, including members of The Decemberists and Jolie Holland’s band.
Drawing from his upbringing in the Central Valley, amidst increasing development and urbanization for the agriculturally-driven region, San Francisco’s Jake Mann examines too how industry affect individual lives. On his brand new album, Daytime Ghost, Mann captures tales of isolation and loss in his own powerful and unique way, drawing from professed influences including Pavement and other low-fi indie rock while also incorporating elements of spoken word, classic pop, and moodier sounds. Despite all of the musical twists and turns, though, Mann’s voice and uniqiue sound remains commanding throughout.
Most singer-songwriter music falls too far onto one side of the personal-political divide, coming off as either melodramatic or preachy. Bernson and Mann both manage to straddle the divide like experts, telling interesting stories from unique viewpoints. Combine these skills with some great music and you’ve got two new albums that make for great listening.
Solo Electric EP reviewed on either/or blog (no longer on-line)
by Hugh Lloyd
“If you’ve heard the music of Pete Krebs, then you’ll know what Jake Mann sounds like and can skip straight to the downloads. If you’re part of the 99% of the people who haven’t, then imagine a catchy rock song with high-quality guitar riffery and you’ll be somewhere in the neighborhood. His (Mann’s) voice is deeper and his songs less poppy than Krebs’, but, as I said, they’re in the same neighborhood. If you like one, you’ll like the other; at least, that’s how it worked for me.
He even did a cover of Nu Shooz’s I Can’t Wait, which, while sounding nothing at all like the original, is certifiably awesome, and arguably better than the original. I like it more, and if you prefer rock to dance music, you’ll think so too.”
“Zim-Zims veteran and former Davis resident Jake Mann knows the key to my heart – my lo-fi, synthy, electric-tinged indie-pop loving heart.”
Rachel Filipinas, The California Aggie
Aquarius Records, San Francisco
MANN, JAKE Daytime Ghost (Crossbill Records)
Here’s the debut solo album by singer/songwriter Jake Mann formerly of Bay Area band The Zim-Zims (you might recall he stepped out on his own for the cdr release Solo Electric EP). If you dig indie rock’n’pop, this gent’s your ears’ new best buddy! The super fuzzed out guitar lines on songs like “Satellite In Bloomington” could easily be mistaken for something comin’ from Sam Coombes and Quasi. Mann keeps his pop tunes’ buoyancy weighted down by minor chords and charming hushed vocals. Later in the album, “Mudflat” perks things up a bit, offering sounds akin to the bright, slightly tweaked pop of Olivia Tremor Control. Nicely varied, low-key popcraft.
Bay Bridged review of Cafe Du Nord show – February 2010
“Following on their heels, Jake Mann and the Upper Hand played clean, streamlined pop with singable refrains. They performed some songs from their upcoming release and threw in a stripped down cover of The Beach Boys’ “Girl Don’t Tell Me.” Taking a page from The Beach Boys, Mann’s songwriting achieves that balance of concise and direct lyrics that remain evocative.
The rapport between Mann and drummer Dan Baber was gracious and easy – both clearly having a great time. Baber and guitarist Aaron Bellamy ornamented the songs with clean cut, minimalist fills, together creating a listening experience like your high school math scholar squad formed a band and crashed your sweet garage party.”
“Local Live, Zim-Zims at Hemlock Tavern”
by Duncan Scott Davidson
San Francisco Bay Guardian – 5 July 2004
“As far as dramatic arcs were concerned, The Zim-Zims had them. Singer-guitarist Jake Mann had a way of leaning into the mic and whispering conspiratorily, as though he were making the audience his accomplice. He delivered lyrics like they were a sorrowful mystery he only knew the half of, evoking the sultry vocalizations of Morphine’s Mark Sandman. Drummer Teddy Briggs, on the other hand, brought to mind Dennis the Menace in the throes of a psychotic episode.
One look at Briggs’ drummer faces par excellence lightened the mood. On the reals, though, drummers are a breed apart, especially if they’re good. The Zim-Zims are a rhythmically tight machine, sounding like a harder rocking version of the Feelies in their
The Zim-Zims are–surprise–another fine guitar band from Davis, a place that knows about these things
By Jackson Griffith
This article was published on 10.30.03.
“Heard this new CD by the Zim-Zims?” I’d asked another scribe who covers local music.
He answered with something about not bothering to check the Davis-based trio out because he could tell by its name that it most likely was another poppy-punk clone from the Blink 182-Sum 41 playbook, and he’d heard more than enough of those to last a lifetime.
Funny, I’d made the same mistake.
However, recalling an old aphorism, something about contempt prior to investigation leading to everlasting ignorance, prompted me to relent. Perhaps it was something about the band’s self-titled CD–the artfully arranged photographic elements on the cover, or the short, telegraphic song titles–that called out for at least a listen.
According to Jake Mann, the guitar-playing songwriter who pens and sings most of the band’s material, he got the name Zim-Zim from a ghost town near Lake Berryessa. “Probably involved in mercury mining back in the late 1800s,” Mann said. “I work with a lot of historic maps, and I saw it on one. There’s still a Zim-Zim Creek.”
Mann is currently a graduate student at the University of California, Davis; his interest in geography has led to him doing computer work on maps of area foothills, which is to say that his band’s name has nothing to do with Speed Racer-sourced cuteness or a Japanese anime fixation. “I guess there’s an Invader ZIM comic,” he admitted.
The Zim-Zims grow out of that aggie science-nerd fixation that has germinated a number of smart Davis guitar bands throughout the years, from Game Theory and Thin White Rope through Knapsack, Harvester and Chance the Gardener to the Lookyloos.
In places, the way Mann’s voice soars and flutters is reminiscent of the late Jeff Buckley’s final recordings with Tom Verlaine. But it’s his guitar work, backed by Mike Talbot on bass and Blair Trigg on drums, that gives the music the kind of abraded texturing that some people call post-punk–think Yo La Tengo uncomfortably transplanted to Creedence Clearwater country.
The Zim-Zims kicks off with one of the stronger one-two-three punches heard on a recent local recording. “Creosote Lane” is Mann’s impressionistic meditation on how suburban developments are chewing up prime farmland, specifically along the Interstate-80 corridor from Davis to Vacaville. “In the time since I got here as an undergraduate in ’92, I’ve seen a lot of change,” Mann said. “The town used to be dominated by bikes, and now everyone’s driving their cars because they live so far out.”
That song is followed by “Cooler” and “We’re Not Waiting.” The former sketches flatlander college life as a brew-fueled limbo. “That’s all there is out here, you know?” Mann said. “Porches, girls, beer, cigarettes and–what else?–sprawl.” The latter rides on a fat-string riff that would make a post-punk Brit band like Killing Joke quite jealous.
The rest of the album is decent, too. The band sounds much fuller than a trio–which Mann chalks up to studio experimentation, adding that perhaps it’s time to find a second guitarist to more closely duplicate the band’s recorded sound.
Mann, a native of Watsonville, moved to Davis to attend college, as did the band’s bassist, Talbot, from Benicia. The Zim-Zims’ drummer, Trigg, is from Sacramento. Mann came from a jazz background, playing standup bass in a trio led by a guy who was heavily into pianist Keith Jarrett. “I wasn’t that into indie rock when it was happening here,” Mann admitted.
The Zim-Zims were formed after Eric Ruud of Legubitron was putting together a Davis music festival called “Pollynation” in May 2002, and Ruud asked Mann to get something together. “He knew I was writing songs and recording,” Mann explained. The result was a band originally called the Tasters, which changed its name to the Zim-Zims because there was another Tasters in Southern California. Soon the Zim-Zims started playing in earnest, as often as they could, between Sacramento and San Francisco.