Aimee Mann "Charmer"

Aimee Mann's exploration of the foibles of human nature and attraction is set to power-pop melodies. In a fair world where talent is recognized and rewarded Aimee Mann would be the recipient of accolades, wealth, and fame. In reality, she has received moderate attention for a body of work that is consistently good, including albums with her former band Til’ Tuesday, her solo releases, and her soundtrack for the film Magnolia. Mann has an unerring ear for melody and the ability to capture the foibles and idiosyncratic behaviors of the human ego. Mann’s own record label title – SuperEgo - is a tongue-in-cheek knock on the fragile psyche, especially as it pertains to the music industry. After all, this is a woman who once titled an album I’m With Stupid, in reference to her former record label.

Mann’s lyrics lean toward the ironic and sardonic end of the attitude spectrum, but not without a sprinkling of sympathy for her characters. She’s drawn to stories that examine the complexity of the human experience. Her protagonists are all the more interesting because they are imperfect, because we glimpse our own lives in her songs. "Charmer" was the first track Mann wrote for the album and it sets the theme of the record. It’s a study of the type of person who, for better or worse, we find irresistible. Mann looks inside the charmer for the insecurities that drive the attraction. Like the charmer, the music is seductively catchy.

Counter balancing the charmer is the charmed. Why do we allow ourselves to be manipulated by these magnetic personalities? Mann follows this thread in the song “Labrador” which details the imbalance inherent in a relationship between the tempter and the ensnared. “When we first met/I was glad to be your pet/like a Lab I once had…..” You can imagine the sad end when the leash holder gets bored. “Disappeared” again captures the emptiness of abandonment once the shine wears off. “Crazytown” finds the victim entangled in the trap of a damaged charmer. And so goes the litany of interpersonal predicaments and emotional shell games.

Charmer, despite its somewhat bleak lyrical premise, is mostly musically upbeat. Mann and her band used as a template ‘70s radio pop, specifically The Cars, Blondie, and Split Enz. Back in the forefront is electric guitar, which had taken a backseat to acoustic on her last album. Synthesizers act as a sort of fulcrum, bringing a livelier edge to the intensity. Mann handles all the vocals with one exception. James Mercer, front man of The Shins, duets on “Living a Lie.”

Rosemary Welsch (Afternoon Host)