June 12, 2008

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Aimee Mann, @#%&*! Smilers
Superego Records, June 3
Who’d ever have figured that Aimee Mann’s ultimate goal was to become the millennium’s answer to Anne Murray. ?Luck’s been with her more than with perhaps any other romance-addicted dummy on the planet, her adventures in serial monogamy serving as influence or impetus for her bands, Til Tuesday and Young Snakes. And jeezum crow, her relationship with songwriting like-mind Jules Shear provided us with memorable soft-core shots of the pair sprawling over each other at the 1987 Grammy awards.

The local gossip-gaggle also had her hooked up with Chris Doherty from Gang Green during a bad patch. Things sure do change, heh heh. The spiky hair and all-night bashes were gone pretty much the minute she ventured out on her own, and the cowboy-pop started to trickle in, leading to the steady stream of it found here on the Joni Mitchell-glossed “The Great Beyond” and Blazing Saddles campfire-whistle-along “Little Tornado.” No post-punk at all, with Mann being 47 now and content with conveying an aura of warm gingerbread and lemongrass tea. “Medicine Wheel,” bearing a sad and stoic piano line right out of Elton John’s Captain Fantastic era, proves she’s not afraid of her age, a point driven deeper with the soft-shoe rag of “Ballantines.” B+Eric W. Saeger