Review: Aimee Mann – Charmer
Published on September 17th, 2012 | Jonny Abrams
The Richmond, Virginia singer-songwriter plays unsurprisingly to her strengths on this, her eighth studio album; and why not? They are after all such very fine strengths.
Charmer gets underway with its gleeful title track, all razor-sharp songwriting and understated, double-tracked vocals that bring a nice roughness to the studio sheen, supplemented in the feel-good stakes by playful interjections of cartoony synth. Lyrically, Aimee Mann remains smart as buttons, this set concerning itself with the internal struggle of outwardly charming people, providing a suitably dark heart for this groovy summer-pop tune.
This tension between the music and the lyrics lays down a blueprint-of-sorts for the album: “Now I join the queue of people dead to you” she sings on the faintly Wilco-ish “Disappeared”, “You were so charming, it was disarming” on the gently loping “Slip and Roll”, while James Mercer duet “Living a Lie” comes from the perspective of a relationship on its last legs.
It may be nothing particularly new or cutting-edge, and thusly may not change the way you listen to music, but Charmer has plenty of moments so gorgeously wistful that you might better appreciate the role music plays in your day-to-day life; the middle-eight of “Labrador” might be centered around a well-worn progression (specifically on the words “how she waited on the stairs for you”) but Mann deploys it so effectively – dropping it in briefly, teasingly, like so many short-lived relationships – that it constitutes an album highlight. It’s the kind of sunny, weary sigh that you’ll find yourself singing in a quiet moment of drunken reflection, and that takes a special kind of song. Incidentally, a similar progression crops up, again briefly, on the song “Gumby”.
As stated, time has not dimmed Mann’s songwriting prowess so much as fuelled it: “Soon Enough” is Beatles-y right down to the backing vocals, “Gamma Ray” welcomely rocking, “Barfly” majestic in its melodic bluesiness, and breezy closer “Red Flag Diver”successfully underlines all that went before in just two and a half minutes, the LP’s shortest running time.
Charmer: well, it charms. Another fine body of work from an evergreen talent.
Rocksucker says: Three and a Half Quails out of Five!
Charmer is out now on SuperEgo. For more information please visit www.aimeemann.com