Mann recorded three albums with Til Tuesday in the mid to late 80s, the best of which is 1988’s Everything’s Different Now. The band broke up after that release, largely because Mann wanted to take her music in a more acoustic, less New Wave, direction.
Led by lead vocalist and sole songwriter Elizabeth Stokes, the band The Beths most reminds me of (in spirit, if not in sound) is Ben Folds Five. Stokes is the driving creative force of a musically tight trio that brings a melodic, punk-light energy to songs about modern relationships. And they have great backing vocals, too.
If there’s one thing this blog does on a regular basis, it’s remind me of how freaking old I’m getting.
I love how this album really sounds like a bridge between Mann’s work with ‘Til Tuesday and the much more polished sound of her later records.
Due to a dispute with her ‘Til Tuesday label, it took five years for Aimee Mann to release her first solo album, Whatever. Her new label, Imago, then promptly fell into financial crisis and dissolved. As a result, Whatever received very little promotion and sold very few copies.
That’s a shame because it’s a fine album, a big step up from her work with ‘Til Tuesday. I included one of its songs, ‘Fourth of July,’ on the blog more than a year ago and it remains one of the best songs I’ve featured here.
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.