Aimee Mann – Charmer (Review)
Review by Jack Foley
IT’S hard not to love Aimee Man… from her disarming voice, through to her effectively simple song-writing style, right down to her thought-provoking lyricism, she’s consistently appealing.
Charmer is her first album since 2008, her eighth in total, and is packed with great songs, some of which have a deceptively dark side.
For, as Mann herself explains of the LP’s title: “I’m fascinated by charming people and the whole idea of charm. It’s hard to remember sometimes that there is usually an agenda behind the art of being charming, and that is what I’m most interested in.
“Is someone’s charm being utilized just to try and entertain people, make them feel special and interesting, or is there some more sinister purpose behind it? Sometimes, I think ‘charm’ can be just another word for ‘manipulation’.”
It’s this deeper thinking behind every song that makes Mann so worth listening to. But she also makes it easy by wrapping her songs in such charming melodies.
On Charmer, the hits keep on coming. Title track and opener Charmer, for instance, has a fuzzy electronic loop (reminiscent of classic Cars cuts) that immediately gets into your head and puts a smile on your face. It zips along in easygoing fashion.
Disappeared employs a more rockier refrain early on, while tapping into the darkness I previously mentioned as she attempts to work out how she ended up on somebody’s bad side.
And Labrador manages to combine more cute hooks with lyrics that liken Mann to a loyal pet dog (in spite of her lover lying to her face). It’s this juxtaposition that also makes her so endlessly fascinating.
There’s more to like in the fizzing electro-pop of Crazytown, which even throws in a “woo hoo” harmony over the chorus for added sing-along potential, while there’s stripped back intimacy and an endearing fragility to Soon Enough, another potential soundtrack filler in waiting as it whimsically takes a look at the human condition.
Another highlight, meanwhile, comes from Living A Lie, Mann’s duet with The Shins’ James Mercer, which finds the two vocalists combining in perfect harmony. It’s the type of track that could well broaden her popularity even wider.
Elsewhere, Gumby fuses country elements with rock-pop to crowd-pleasing effect, Gamma Ray comments on the current state of the world in rousing fashion and Barfly comes over deliciously sultry and bluesy for the penultimate offering.
Closing track Red Flag Diver maintains the high standards to the end, keeping things low-key but melodically pleasing, and ensuring that you’re hooked to the very last second.
Mann may be sceptical of charmers in general but her album of the same name genuinely charms.
Download picks: Charmer, Disappeared, Crazytown, Soon Enough, Living A Lie, Gamma Ray