Recording

Review: Aimee Mann Charmer (SuperEgo)

When a brilliant songwriter and singer like Aimee Mann decides to make sort of a pop record, you know it’s going to be cool. This artist has a poet’s way with words and a purely beautiful melodic 9/18/2012 1:32 PM Eastern

When a brilliant songwriter and singer like Aimee Mann decides to make sort of a pop record, you know it’s going to be cool. This artist has a poet’s way with words and a purely beautiful melodic sense; meanwhile, she and her producer/bandmate Paul Bryan also have the deep musical knowledge and critical distance to play with musical influences like toys. So, Charmer is lyrically populated with suspicious characters and dysfunctional relationships, but sonically, it’s as playful as it is powerful, with masterful references to sounds from ’70s and ’80s pop and rock records. There are moments of Steely Dan, The Cars, even one TV theme…

Helping to execute Mann and Bryan’s complex musical vision are pianist/keyboardist/guitarist Jamie Edwards, piano and keyboard player Jebin Bruni, electric guitar player Chris Bruce, drummer J.J. Johnson and percussionist/drummer Jay Bellerose. Once again, Mann recorded with engineer Ryan Freeland in his Stampede Origin studio, though Bryan tracked some musical parts/overdubs in his personal studio as well.

Says Freeland, who’s been with Mann for six albums now: “We went for a very specific kind of sound on this album, which largely came from her drummer. J.J.’s thing is so ‘groove,’ and he’s so subtle in the way he’ll shift the groove from verse to chorus, so what I was going for was very specifically trying to ride that line but stay true to Aimee’s sound. We were also deliberately being kind of ragged and tough, and not quite so…beautiful. We kept it a little more gritty and a little more rockin’ [than on previous albums]. It’s fun after all these years to keep trying to reinvent things.”