Aimee Mann makes smart, funny, well-crafted pop albums with such professional consistency that it can be hard to get excited about a new one. Think of her as CBS and her records as police procedurals.
So you'd be forgiven if you let "Charmer," her latest, slip by you like "NYC 22" when it came out last month. Go back, though: Working with a top-flight support crew that includes guitarist Chris Bruce and James Mercer of the Shins, Mann on "Charmer" exchanges the sometimes-airless chamber-folk vibe of her recent stuff for a bright neo-New Wave sound that might remind fans with long memories of her mid-'80s work with 'Til Tuesday. (No wonder the music video for "Labrador," which you can see below, is a shot-for-shot recreation of that band's "Voices Carry" clip.)
The result gives some new bite to Mann's typically sly meditations on bad romance, as in the appealingly slick title track, where an insinuating little synth lick physicalizes her depiction of a guy whose easy manner disguises "the hidden agenda [he's] got going on." Later, in "Living a Lie," she and Mercer examine "a boy genius just past his prime" from both sides of the mirror; it's a role perfectly suited to Mercer's exacting whine.
On Saturday night Mann is scheduled to bring her new songs to a concert at the Wilshire Ebell Theatre, and given the singer's long roots in L.A., Pop & Hiss wouldn't be surprised if some unannounced guests show up the way they invariably do in her annual holiday shows. Don't miss her (again).
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