It’s nearly twenty years since Aimee Mann released her debut studio album and just over a decade since her work on the Magnolia soundtrack brought her music to a much wider audience. Nowadays she is a considered a veteran of the singer-songwriter scene and, most of the time, you know what to expect from a new release. Even so, Charmer, her eighth LP, is a fairly strong set of songs that tries very hard to command your attention and, for the most part, it succeeds in doing so.
Produced by band member Paul Bryan in L.A., this looks towards the so-called ‘superpop’ of the 70s and 80s for inspiration. ‘Crazytown’ is a good example of this; its warped synths and keyboards sounds are seem heavily influenced by Supertramp but at the same time it has a very cinematic feel, aided heavily by the slick vocal harmonies on the chorus. There’s also the breezy ‘Gummy’, which makes for some superb sunshine pop complete with glistening guitars, and a satisfactory duet with James Mercer of The Shins, ‘Living A Lie’.
The immediacy and urgency means that there isn’t that much room for more delicate and down tempo tunes but there’s a few scattered here and there. ‘Barfly’ strips away some of the keyboards for the sake of a much clearer and cleaner tone and is one of the few songs on Charmer where Mann takes her foot off the accelerator pedal.
Fans of Mann’s past work shouldn’t be too disappointed and any newcomers will find plenty to enjoy. It’s a solid, coherent and thoroughly enjoyable LP that may not seem all that much on first listen but you’ll gradually get sucked in.
Words: Max Raymond