The late, great Miles Davis is quoted as once having said that “Writing about music is like dancing about architecture”. The quote has been attributed to several other people, but the point that it makes stands up. Music is something you listen to, that you feel, and that mostly bypasses your intellectual filters. When you try to write about it you end up either describing flat technical details that don’t communicate much, or speaking in personal, emotive terms that are only really meaningful to the individual.
Still, it’s FAM over at GJ’s, and she suggested that I say something about someone that I’ve been listening to for years, and who deserves a mention now. I first heard Aimee Mann’s voice when she was fronting Til Tuesday, a short-lived new wave pop group that had one major hit, ‘Voices Carry’, back in the mid-80s. Even then her clear, brittle voice was captivating and the song pulled you in. The group released three albums, but pretty much disappeared. I think it was because of the ‘Big Hair’.
I was vaguely aware that Mann had gone on to release a few critically-acclaimed solo albums that left behind the whole ‘new wave’ thing and moved into an introspective kind of folk-acoustic pop, but I didn’t stop to search them out. Then in 2000 she wrote four gorgeous songs that ended up on the soundtrack to the Paul Thomas Anderson movie, Magnolia. These were richly melodic pieces of perfectly-crafted acoustic pop. They were clever and perceptive, gentle and yet tough. Songs like “Save Me” (which was nominated for an Academy Award and was one of the best song performances on the Oscars ever), “Driving Sideways”, “Build That Wall”, and “Momentum”.
Those songs were added to her utterly brilliant album, Bachelor No. 2, or the last remains of the dodo, which is one of my favorite records ever. The thirteen songs on it at are all terrific, and rightly described by All-Music as matching her “literate, mildly self-deprecating, clever, melancholy, melodic style”. If you have a taste for intimate, introspective pop, then there are very few better albums around. Mann’s voice is gorgeous, her lyrics intelligent, and the accompaniment is perfect.
Mann has released some strong albums since Bachelor No. 2, but it’s the place you should start, I think. You can all search her on YouTube (I hate embedding those things, so I’ll leave it to you and your SearchFu to do it) and you’ll see what I mean. I was really disappointed to hear she’s touring OZ in a few months and not making it to Perth. sigh.