Saturday, October 10, 2009

Aimee Mann: Bachelor No. 2 Or The Last Remains of the Dodo

1. How Am I Different: With this song, Aimee manages to take a simple question (the title of the song being discussed) and turns it into a powerful probing of a damaging lover; also, that dramatic (how usual of Aimee) bridge in the middle has the perfect sing-a-long feel to it, down to the nasal yet beautiful vocalizing of Mann and the gritty lyrics we've all come to know and love the lady for. 9/10

2. Nothing Is Good Enough: This has potential with its jazzy drum beat (I don't know if one can even call it a beat, something more like a waltz), but it just seems like a dreary, dull continuation of the album's shining opener. Aimee sounded so impassioned yet subtle on "How Am I Different?", a combination that fits her beautifully. Here, she just sounds bored. 5/10

3. Red Vines: If any track on here had to be the "single", this could've had the best chance to at least make the AC Radio Top 40, playing in a few supermarkets in select metropolitan supermarkets. That last description makes it sound awful, but just remember that this is all being done through the eyes of Aimee Mann, so she's bound to put a wonderful, middle class urban adult melodrama spin on it. And she does. That chorus is a silent killer, the perfect mix of catchiness and lack of overexposure. 7/10

4. The Fall of the World's Own Optimist: Working with Elvis Costello is most certainly a double edged sword no matter how you go about it. The great news is that Costello is so damn talented that no matter what he puts his name on, it has about a 99% chance of sounding good. This is enjoyable. Too bad it sounds like an Elvis Costello cover, something quite insulting for someone as vibrant and individualistic as Aimee Mann; even she can't escape the stigma of working with someone as recognizable as Costello. She still sings the hell out of that chorus, though. 6/10

5. Satellite: Wow, talk about a nice return to form! This achieves the scattered jazz feel that was stagnant in "Nothing Is Good Enough". This album is masterful in its surprising shifts in the span of one song. The way this track sprawls from hushed first verse to orchestral chorus is a touch of class that can't be ignored. The simple piano chord(s) is just as masterful in its use of repetition to pull the listener in. Yet another beautiful musical effort from Aimee, but where are the poignant and theatrical lyrics that have become her trademark at this point? 7/10

6. Deathly: Aimee and a guitar. Folk song about the trials of love. Even Aimee has moments that one can become increasingly eager to skip. This is just pure laziness. 4/10

7. Ghost World: I can tolerate the way this begins, pretty peppy in the vein of post-college joy. Aimee sounding like she's coughing up a phlegm the moment she starts singing, though, is something I cannot tolerate. I feel so close-minded. 3/10

8. Calling It Quits: This is the true return to form, infusing the album with much needed life at the perfect moment. This is the perfectly placed song on the effort, matching the luminous brilliance of "How Am I Different" but coming as much more of a replenishing song, even giving us a completely different side of Aimee, embracing a completely different genre, some sort of Jon Brion-influenced trip hop. Ultra sexy, Aimee. Ultra sexy. It could've sounded too late 90s, but Aimee finally shows what she's capable of once again in this album. 8/10

9. Driving Sideways: What makes this song so great is that it manages to sound good even with so many previous tracks on here sounding eerily similar to it. Aimee just has that ear for melody that can take the old lesson "It if ain't broke, why fix it" and run with it. That takes some talent. Still, it gets pretty boring by the middle. 5/10

10. Just Like Anyone: It's by this song that you begin to wonder whether Aimee just begins writing every song she ever does imagining a close-up on Julianne Moore crying. Seriously, Aimee. It's not that serious. 2/10

11. Susan: I can hear some sort of Lucinda Williams, Car Wheels on a Gravel Road influence here. It's nice to hear her quicken up the tempo for once. I kind of like it, but something about the way it seems like pointless filler to pad the album with just irks me. The lyrics make no sense. 4/10

12. It Takes All Kinds: Like she always seems to do, Aimee saves good songs for last. Well, last two. On Magnolia, the last two tracks, Wise Up and Save Me, have become concert favorites since their conception and are basically Mann's unofficial signature songs. This is the penultimate song, and it works around its jukebox ballad tempo beautifully, floating on a touch of class even longer than "Satellite" (not much longer, though), with Aimee's perfectly impure vocals wailing against a breezy 50s love song. Nice contrast. 7/10

13. You Do: This isn't just nice. This is gorgeous. Just when I thought nothing was going to beat the opening track, Amy bookends with a genuine slice of heaven. "Dreamlike" is just about the perfect way to describe this, detailing the affairs of a blissfully in love couple, and for the duration of the song, you ARE that couple, even if you're a teenage nun. If only she had known what to do for the rest of the album . Not that I'm complaining while this beautiful song is playing, though. 10/10

Final score = 5.9/10

This seems to be Aimee's attempt to recreate Fleetwood Mac's 1977 breakup classic Rumours, but she also seems far too nice of a woman to be as acerbic as the members of FM had to be to create that masterpiece. There's a handful of memorable moments, though.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009


I've decided to begin a blog of music reviews, since I love this as well as poetry and occasional scripts. Obviously, poetry is still my first love.

I'll award albums ratings on a one-to-five star basis, with halves in between. Hope you like them!