Wednesday, June 7th, 2017

Aimee Mann – Patient Zero

In which we suddenly like Aimee Mann. Most of us, anyway….


Alfred Soto: For more than thirty years, Aimee Mann has kept at it, embellishing conceits that Donne would love and figuring out novel ways of squeezing words like “transom” into pop song structures. I was fond of her first couple solo albums but lost interest when her voice, never a commanding thing, got doleful. I suppose if I’d heard “Patient Zero” in 2000 I’d shrug my shoulders. Now its relaxed smarts and impressive songcraft (the pizzicato is most welcome) are just what the doctor ordered.

Katie Gill: I’m not normally one for Aimee Mann’s brand of folk meets adult contemporary. So color me surprised when her latest album, Mental Illness, won me over almost instantly. “Patient Zero” is amazingly calm, with beautiful harmonies uplifting the simplistic melody. The strings lilt in beautifully, supporting the entire song but especially that gorgeous pre-chorus. This is such a good and relaxing song, even if it does sound like it should score a scene in Gilmore Girls.

Thomas Inskeep: Strummy, lyric-focused, serious music, maaaaan. Which is also seriously boring.

Alex Clifton: Aimee Mann never writes cheery things, which is why I love her; I turn to her music in times of sadness and stress. This is one of those deceptively upbeat songs where, by the time the ending chorus hits, you’re left feeling bereft. The production’s a little busy but lush, never distracting from Mann’s vocals. I know that this is one of those songs I’ll rely on when I’m having a bad day, up there with Beck’s “Lost Cause” and Sufjan Stevens’ “Should Have Known Better.” It’s the kind of song I can wrap myself in to protect myself from the outside world, which is exactly what I need from a tune off a record called Mental Illness.

Katherine St Asaph: I’ve never been able to hear past the starchiness of Aimee’s voice, which might not be an issue if the music weren’t even starchier. Jonathan Coulton, whose presence would be decried anywhere but here, adds a spritz of unchallenging arrangement perk.

Anaïs Escobar Mathers: In a recent interview, Aimee mentioned listening to a lot of Bread while making Mental Illness and you can hear it in “Patient Zero” with its layered backing vocals and lush, full sound. It sounds like driving in the car with your mom when you’re little and getting sleepy while she told you where she was when she first heard the songs you were listening to; beautiful but bittersweet. “Patient Zero” is a song about the precipice of having everything line up and the possibility of it all going wrong. Aimee is a wonder to me. Her voice makes me feel warm and safe while her words make me feel that I’m ultimately very small in the grand scheme of things which is terrifying and liberating. 

Joshua Copperman: The lyrics and arrangement are magnetic. For example, the title, referring to Andrew Garfield the young, naive protagonist, is subtly heartbreaking when paired with 1. “they served you champagne like a hero” and 2. the failures he faces as higher-ups take advantage of him and peers take the roles he wanted. Co-writer Jonathan Coulton of Portal fame had the idea of changing the time signature and adding sections like the gorgeous “lights of the canyon” outro, and that change gives this song its drive, along with the sparse but purposeful production.

Ian Mathers: Yeah, it’s about showbiz and not life (har har), but it’s no coincidence the two lead actors in the video are well known for roles in the leading liberal fantasia of what might have been from the last 20 years and the blackest comedy ever made about the dogged persistence of human self-destruction. From the strings to the Big Sleep reference this is an LA song, and from the gently self-effacing melody to an emotional range that goes from wistful to curdled to the way this goes maybe halfway towards rehabilitating “tasteful” as a non-pejorative term, even praise, it’s firmly in Mann’s wheelhouse, but her skills as a lyricist and songwriter haven’t dulled; there’s still a snap to it. It ought to be of equal, melancholy comfort to both the suckers and the locusts.

Reader average: [9.66] (3 votes)

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9 Responses to “Aimee Mann – Patient Zero”

  1. So boring, I couldn’t find the words to even write a blurb. Seriously, every time I tried to buckle down and listen closely I would get distracted by the most RANDOM thing.

  2. Stephen OTM.

  3. +1

  4. I’m legitimately surprised at how high this scored, especially since I straight up thought I was gonna be the only person who liked this while blurbing it.

  5. I never thought so many Jukebox writers would enjoy Aimee Mann! This was a nice surprise!

  6. This song is good, the real knock-out on the album is “You Never Loved Me” though.

  7. I want to be surprised even by artists who’ve bored me.

  8. Anais’s blurb came for my soft underbelly

  9. lilly — thank you!? soft underbelly is what i aim for.

    juana & katie g — right? i was mentally like “lol my first week here and i’m going to be showing my aimee mann vibes loud and proud”