Half Notes: Aimee Mann – The Forgotten Arm (2005)

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by Tom Johnson

Aimee Mann, the former ‘Til Tuesday frontwoman, turned in yet another amazing performance, this time in the form of a concept album centered on boxing as a metaphor for relationships. Or something like that. It doesn’t really matter; what matters was that Mann’s songcraft is once again in check with an immediately comfortable listen, a fact which might have made it sound like she was loafing a bit on the momentum of her previous album, the prickly Lost in Space. But the songs this time around were a little more accessible, the subject matter a little more engrossing, even if Joe Henry’s production was a bit muddled and flat — and in general too pointlessly playful, such as having drums panned nearly hard-right and Mann’s vocals panned hard-left for no particular reason. Mann doesn’t need such gimmickry, in particular because it all seemed so preplanned as an eventual surround-sound re-release … and then another re-release with bonus tracks, something that had just happened with Lost in Space. (OK, so I did buy that bonus-disc version and came to love every minute of it. Don’t you hate that? On the one hand, it’s a frustrating habit that forces big fans like me to pay at least twice. Three times, if I had a surround-sound system — whew! On the other, it allows the artist to put together an amazing package like she did with the deluxe Lost in Space, which was packaged in a beautiful book and included a 10-song bonus disc of live tracks and outtakes.) All of that said, buy The Forgotten Arm, anyway — because it’s a damn great set of songs.

Half Notes is a quick-take music feature on Something Else! Reviews, presented whenever the mood strikes us.

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