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Aimee Mann

@#%&*! Smilers  Hear it Now

RS: 3.5of 5 Stars Average User Rating: 4.5of 5 Stars

2008

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On her best albums, Aimee Mann has earned a rep as the Raymond Carver of pop: author of precisely observed tales in which broken characters arrive at quiet epiphanies. So after 2005's mixed bag, The Forgotten Arm, a concept album about a Vietnam vet who takes his girlfriend on a cross-country road trip, she's returned to surer ground: @#%&*! Smilers finds her singing organ- and string-laden pop songs about a speed addict cruising the 405 for a fix ("Freeway"), a former hometown hero who's worn out his welcome ("Ballantines") and a scorned lover on the run ("Phoenix"). Mann portrays her subjects with the wan detachment of an omniscient narrator, and the sunny arrangements contrast with her even-keel alto, as well as her worldview. "You'll call it fate/When you show up too late/And it's over," she sings on the sweeping waltz "It's Over," the gravity of that verdict undercutting a lilting, Harry Nilsson-style piano riff. On the semiautobiographical "31 Today," Mann looks back on her days as a struggling musician in Boston. "I thought my life would be better by now," she sings over a buzzing Wurlitzer. With an album this vividly rendered, how could it not be?

ELLEN CARPENTER

(Posted: Jul 10, 2008)

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