Song of the Day #491: ‘Medicine Wheel’ – Aimee Mann

smilersAimee Mann’s sixth album of original material, 2008’s @#%&*! Smilers, is her best work yet. It’s the first since Bachelor No. 2 to work as a simple collection of songs and not a concept album and perhaps it was that freedom that allowed her to produce such a consistently great record.

This is one of those albums that feels like it’s always one step ahead of you, taking unexpected turns that seem perfectly obvious in retrospect. It’s the rare album about which you can say “There isn’t a moment on this record I don’t love.”

Or at least, it’s an album about which I can say that. @#%&*! Smilers received critical acclaim, but I recall seeing it at the top of only one best-of-2008 list aside from my own. It’s an eternal mystery why somebody’s “pretty good album” is somebody else’s masterpiece… I guess the lucky artists release enough albums that at least something they do will be received as a masterpiece by somebody.

‘Medicine Wheel’ is a lovely piano ballad with typically provocative lyrics. It seems to be about medicating children and, um, a homeless guy? The production here is fabulous… listen to how the horns and drums enter the mix at the start of the second verse, and what sounds like an electric piano solo at the bridge. Mann makes such great use of layered instrumentation in her songs.

So this concludes my trip down Aimee Mann Lane. Hope you’ve enjoyed it.

The day you left and you called me “bitch”
I called you selfish; better pull that switch
Put my son on amphetamines
He came home crying, and there’s your proof
Crying ’bout nothing but a missing tooth
I did the right thing

You shade the truth almost every day
Phone calls at night, it’s gonna be okay

Are you signing, baby, under the bridge?
Are you signing, baby, on Lake Street?
Black marker on cardboard
Little drawing of a medicine wheel
Well, everything that’s good, you steal
Everything that’s good, you steal

Maybe you’ll wake up in jail alone
And hold the handle of the one pay phone
And do the right thing
Like I once tried, though I bent the truth
A five-dollar debt for a little lost tooth
There’s the payback in front of me

‘Cause once you were like a walking heart
Breaking in motion through the parking lot

Are you signing, baby, under the bridge?
Are you signing, baby, on Lake Street?
Black marker on cardboard
Little drawing of a medicine wheel
Everything that’s good, you steal
Everything that’s given, you steal

Words of encouragement are just as real
Same effect as a smooth blue pill

Are you signing, baby, under the bridge?
Are you signing, baby, on Lake Street?
Black marker on cardboard
Little drawing of a medicine wheel
Everything that’s given, you steal
Everything that’s given, you steal
From me

One thought on “Song of the Day #491: ‘Medicine Wheel’ – Aimee Mann

  1. Dana says:

    This is a wonderful song. And, given your high praise, I clearly need to check out this album.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.