Like Belle & Sebastian, Aimee Mann is an artist I could feature on this blog every day without running out of stellar material. Her six solo albums are jam-packed with soulful pop-rock masterpieces. And her work with ‘Til Tuesday hasn’t aged as well (production-wise, that is… it all has a definite 80s sheen) but is still quite solid.
Mann’s latest album, @#%&*! Smilers, is her best yet, a piano-driven exploration of heartbreak and loneliness that’s brilliantly listenable despite the subject matter. That’s really her gift — turning melancholy into electrifying art.
But for today’s song of the day, I’m skipping the new stuff and jumping all the way back to her first solo album, Whatever. It’s not the album of hers I reach for most, but every time I do I’m reminded of how brilliant she was right out of the gate. The song ‘4th of July,’ in particular, has always been a favorite.
It’s another portrait of heartbreak, and it does it’s job in just two simple stanzas and a powerful chorus tinged with resignation.
She’s a great lyricist. I love something Nick Hornby wrote about her song ‘Ghost World,’ a masterpiece of adolescent ennui — that her first verse was more effective than many first novels he’d read on the same subject.
I love the way she establishes the setting in the first two lines below… I can just picture the narrator sitting alone under a sky full of fireworks, immune to the swell of emotion. And I love how she compares her love life to a song (this song) in the final line.
And when they light up our town I just think ‘what a waste of gunpowder and sky’
I’m certain I am alone in harbouring thoughts of our home
It’s one of my faults that I can’t quell my past
I ought to have gotten it gone
Oh, baby, I wonder if when you are older – someday
You’ll wake up and say, “My God, I should have told her” – what would it take?
“But now here I am and the world’s gotten colder
And she’s got the river down which I sold her.”
So that’s today’s memory lane, with all the pathos and pain
Another chapter in a book where the chapters are endless and they’re always the same
A verse, then a verse, and refrain