Hush hush keep it down now — NPR carries.
Jonathan Bogart: For almost three decades now, Aimee Mann has made pleasant, well-kempt middle-aged music for pleasant, well-kempt middle-aged people. She’s finally aged into the role.
Anthony Easton: You know between the Portlandia appearances and the videos, one would think that Mann would have a sense of humour, or at least charm, but her music is self serious in a way her public persona isn’t.
Alfred Soto: Aimee Mann asks for it. Like her target audience, she doesn’t listen to pop music. She once wrote songs about the perfidy of the record business (like Wilco!). Her voice is a prairie-flat sob that lets admonishments and contorted metaphors sit unchallenged. For years she left me suspicious of Jon Brion. Here she writes and sings another anomic plaint about someone luckier than Aimee Mann. Her audience will appreciate it.
Edward Okulicz: I’ve been a fan for years, always with a queasy feeling that she tries a little hard with her extended metaphors and complex rhyming patterns. But I’m With Stupid and Bachelor No. 2 are great records precisely because of their meticulousness and fussiness; “Charmer” doesn’t try hard enough. It has a flat melody that makes her voice sound lifeless rather than weary and the only colour comes from the organ. How many artists fight for artistic and financial freedom as hard as Mann and subsequently become less adventurous?
Mallory O’Donnell: Almost twenty years and nothing’s changed… this toes the line between clever and annoying the way all her work has, and I’m still not sure two-oh down the line if I like it or not. But surely someone should be making songs like this, and I’m currently still fine with it being her.
Brad Shoup: “Sturdy” is a compliment best reserved for AFL offensive guards and homemade mailboxes. Maybe we can throw AM-rock throwbacks in there too.
Katherine St Asaph: “This is a battle you cannot fight — no, you only can surrender”: lyric or musical strategy? The organ is hefty ammunition (and, as usual, more inventive than the genre’s stereotype), but the melody bows down and out.
Jer Fairall: A one-time critic’s darling whose high profile peaked long enough ago that she was left to make some of the best (Lost In Space, @#%&*! Smilers), or when failing that, her most ambitious (The Forgotten Arm) records with little more than her loyal cultists (*waves*) paying attention, “Charmer” is enough of a piece with the pretty much everything else in the Aimee Mann catalogue that it all but invites casual listeners to shrug “yup, sounds like Aimee Mann” somewhere around the thirty-second point before moving on to the new Gotye single or something. What they miss is the sound of an artist who thrives on fuck-ups growing steadily more comfortable, and not just because this chronicler of failures of both the romantic and business sort is now well into her second decade as the happily married boss of her own record label, but because that singularly elegant sting she once took them all down with has weathered into the kind of critical but warm compassion that only comes with seeing a lifetime’s worth of frustrations so clearly that the other side gradually becomes visible whether you mean it to or not. And with this, perhaps, comes a newfound comfort with one’s past, with taking a look back at that girl with the crazy hair in the “Voices Carry” video and offering a buzzing little New Wave synth hook as a high five to a former self. This is how you settle into “veteran artist” status with grace, dignity and, yup, charm.