If you haven’t heard of Aimee Mann before, you have missed out on some of the driest, most self deprecating, cynically amusing songwriting to come out of America in the last 20 years. A solo artist since 1993, 52 year old Mann is now releasing her eighth studio album, Charmer through Proper Records, the follow up to 2007’s widely acclaimed @#%&*!.
Charmer has been written around Mann’s cynicism and humour regarding charming people: “I’m fascinated by the idea of charming people and the whole idea of charm," muses Mann, "it’s hard to remember that there is usually an agenda behind the act of being charming…is there a more sinister purpose behind it? Sometimes I think charm is just another word for manipulation.”
There are certainly enough sharp lyrics hidden in the record to make you see that Mann has put a lot of thought into this theory; in the catchy Labrador Mann dresses up some stinging lyrics such as: “You lie so well, I could never even tell/What were facts in your artful rearranging/But I came back for more…Cause I’m a Labrador” in a pretty, up tempo melody that contradicts the songs content.
Whilst it does take a few listens to fully start appreciating the album and how well written it actually is, on the whole Charmer ticks all the boxes
Mann manages to keep her theme alive on Charmer by making you work to understand it; the angriest songs on this album are often the softest and easiest to listen to. This is a positive and a negative as the album can be easy to tune out unless you give it your full focus. You sometimes wish that she would throw down the gauntlet and pound out her frustrations some heavy drums and guitars, if only to shock you into listening to her wry observations.
Of course the track of the album that most people are keen to hear is the collaboration with The Shins’ singer, James Mercer, Living a Lie. With retro synths opening the 70s style track, Living a Lieis not as powerfully written as some other songs on the album and does run the risk of being a tad repetitive, but on the whole is a nice effort that allows Mann’s super-cynicism to blend nicely with Mercer’s beautiful simplicity.
Whilst it does take a few listens to fully start appreciating the album and how well written it actually is, on the whole Charmer ticks all the boxes. Clever, witty, well produced by band member Paul Bryan and including a collaboration that will appeal to a new generation of fans, Aimee's album is, well…charming.
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