Tuesday, 29 March 2011

In praise of Aimee Mann's album 'Whatever'

Aimee Mann is an American singer-songwriter who has been in the music business for well over 20 years but never really made it big, at least not in the UK. I guess she's best known for performing most of the songs from the film Magnolia, which was released in 2000 and starred Tom Cruise, Julianne Moore and Philip Seymour Hoffman.

It's Mann's first album that I want to tell you about, as it's one of my all-time favourites and I was reminded of this when I listened to it for the first time in a while the other day. 'Whatever' was released back in 1993 and you can listen to snippets of all the tracks at the US Amazon site.

The whole album is full of beautiful, heartfelt, clever songs but I thought I'd pick out a couple of personal highlights. '4th of July' is a painfully poignant tale of personal regret set against celebrations on Independence Day. I love the slightly unusual chords and Mann's voice is something from another world, so emotive and expressive. Here is a solo performance from a Jools Holland show a few years back. Just magical:

A couple of lyric lines from the song:
Today's the 4th of July, another June has gone by
And when they light up our town I just think, what a waste of gunpowder and sky

Another chapter in a book where the chapters are endless
And they're always the same
A verse, then a verse and refrain

And the song 'Say Anything' has some sharp, witty lyrics, along with another great instrumental arrangement. I can't find a video link (you can listen to 30 seconds at Amazon though) but here are some lyrics:
You see me as a judge though I deny it
And hold me like a grudge then justify it

So why do I refuse the truth
When I clearly cannot use
The comfort of one more lame excuse

Thinking back, 'Whatever' might have been the first time I took a punt on an album that I hardly knew anything about. I'd seen one song off the album just once on MTV and loved it so much that I went out and bought the CD. According to the review on Amazon UK the song, I Should've Known, had become a minor hit after being used on a TV programme. Anyhow, I'm so glad I spent my hard-earned pennies (or was it pocket money back then?!) on this album as it's still a favourite of mine after some 18 years. I hope you like it too.

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