Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Mann Hunt

I recently bought this new concept album by Aimee Mann after I remember reading a Salon article about her.

I like Aimee Mann. But funny enough, I've never had a chance to get any of her solo albums nor her work with the '80s band 'Til Tuesday. It was really one-offs here and there, starting with this song in The Melrose Place soundtrack, That's Just What You Are, and Save Me from the movie soundtrack of Magnolia.

What really gets to me about Mann's songs though is her excellent songwriting. For example, the start of That's Just What You Are is extremely catchy: "In our endeavor we are never seeing eye to eye/ No guts to sever so forever may we wave good-bye/ And you're always telling me that it's my turn to move/ When I wonder what could make the needle jump the groove/ I won't fall for the oldest trick in the book/ So don't sit there and think you're off of the hook/ By saying there is no use changing/ 'Cause that's just what you are."

But back to the article:

Mann is one of the best songwriters of her generation, unfailingly articulate and rarely abstract, but never overly wordy or self-consciously clever -- which is quite a feat. She writes lovingly sculpted melodies that duck and weave and pirouette and double back on themselves with serpentine grace. She then pairs them with lyrics that offer richly detailed psychological portraits of broken lives. She clearly has a fascination with chronicling the lives of people who are falling apart, and her music often treads a delicate emotional line: Melancholy bordering on desperation, but simultaneously conveying a kind, motherly compassion and sense of comfort. She manages to be victim and savior at the same time, and the trick, I think, is in her voice, warm with intimacy but always somewhat detached from the stories she tells, touched with a chill of cynicism, unimpressed with her own emotional vulnerability. It sounds like a paradox, and it is, but that's what makes her music so unusual and so moving. In her Grammy-nominated song "Save Me" (a rare instance of the Grammys singling out an artist's best work), Mann is calling out for help, but she also sounds so wise and in control that you can't imagine a better person to help her than herself.

Interesting enough, she also likes "Fitzgerald short stories, that's my favorite stuff. Edith Wharton, Hemingway, J.D. Salinger. The old classics."

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