Josephine Tey: The Franchise Affair (audio)
From The Hedgehog Review

Aimee Mann: Bachelor Number 2

After this first paragraph, this is something I posted on Facebook a week or so ago. Before hard disk space became so cheap, I backed up a lot of mp3 files to cd. I've kept them and there are dozens of them, each with typically at least 100 tracks, if it's pop music. Sometimes I pick one at random and put in the cd player in the car and leave it there for a while. I get a lot of surprises, some good and some bad. This was one of the good ones. I thought I had written about this album here at one time, ten or more years ago, but apparently I did not. I remember saying to someone at the time that it was extremely good although a little on the too cool and polished side for my taste. I am hereby raising my opinion from"extremely good" to "outstanding."
All you old folks who tend to think pop music doesn't have all that much to offer past 1975 or so, listen to Aimee Mann's Bachelor Number 2 (or The Last Remains of the Dodo). This is some of the most brilliant songwriting of the last 50 years, with performances to match. It came out in 2000, so not exactly of the moment, but it's timeless, within the pop frame of reference. Musically there are a lot of Beatles-y and Bacharach-y touches.
My only reservation is that in subject matter and general effect the songs don't really touch the depths for me, tending toward rather cool and sharp personal complaints about what seem to be specific people. But dang, she's good. Here's one song, with lyrics, so you can see how well-crafted they are.


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Mac, seeing how much you like Bachelor #2, find yourself a copy of the record she put out two years after it, called Lost in Space. Yes, she is one of the finest songwriters of the last 50 years and Lost in Space is, in my opinion, her best work. Spooky songs. A deep exploration of troubled psyches, but tied together with a space ship theme. Her band plays tightly and fluidly and with understatement. But the tracks are full of unease. Destabilizing effects creep in around the edges and sometimes power the thrust of the choruses and verses.

I know I said on Facebook that Bachelor #2 is her best, and I stand by that. However, there is a level of mastery to all of her solo work that for the most part it is a completely subjective matter of taste which you think is the best. Really, they are all good. Right now I'm probably enjoying the newest one, Mental Illness, the most. Sort of like I'm enjoying the newest Pretenders album in the same way. When you love an artist and they always put out great material, then I think you're always in love with the newest output.

Thank you, Dave. Interestingly, AMG gives that album the lowest rating of any of hers, a mere 3 stars. But if you read the associated review it sounds way more enthusiastic. Sounds like my cup of tea.

Stu, your remark made me ask myself whether there is any artist I feel that way about, and the answer, sadly, is no. I guess I might have been that way at one time about a few people. Waits and Cohen maybe. But the first is probably past his peak and the second is not releasing any new material.

That Leonard Cohen is not releasing any new material strikes me as a "droll" comment, Mac. LOL!

:-) I wondered if anybody would think I hadn't heard the bad news.

All I've heard from Aimee Mann, I think, are the songs she contributed to the Magnolia film. That would have been around the same time as the "Bachelor No.2" record. I love both of those songs, so I really should check out some of her other work. Thanks for the recommendation.

I see four songs, including "Deathly", listed on the Magnolia soundtrack that are also on this album. So you'll probably like it. You're welcome.

The songs that I am thinking of, which were woven directly into the film (actors singing and all), were "Wise Up" and "Save Me". Good songs.

I don't remember them but then I only saw the movie once. Those two aren't on the Bachelor album.

Due to this post I re-watched Magnolia last night. I remember going to see it in the theatre and walking out in a daze, sort of amazed at its scope, music, characters, premise....everything. Watching again 21 years later I sort of feel the same way. There's really nothing else like it, including PT Anderson's other films. A worthwhile 3 hours to spend. Back in 1999 I would not have thought of the religious elements therein probably at all, now the idea of humans looking for redemption certainly jumps out at me!

Remember this discussion?

Although I'm not a fan of Mann's style, I'd readily agree that she is a very good singer and songwriter. I do like the odd song but I've never found her work appealing overall. More a matter of style than anything else, however, as I can certainly recognize the quality.

"Stu, your remark made me ask myself whether there is any artist I feel that way about, and the answer, sadly, is no. "

There are still a few artists/bands I pay fairly close attention to but the only one I can think of that I unhesitatingly buy new releases of is the innocence mission. I just listened to Hello, I Feel the Same for the first time in a couple years, and.... holy cow!

I'm about two albums behind on listening to the IM. As much as I love them, there always seems to be something that sort of crowds them out. I would hate to analyze that too much, because it probably says something I won't like about my desire for novelty.

I sort of share that reservation about Aimee Mann's style, actually. Meaning the whole sound, not her voice or songs. It's so skillfully done that it approaches slickness, but it's so good that it overcomes that reservation. It would be interesting to hear her perform these songs with a whole different kind of band, something less perfect, more ragged.

Speaking of innocence mission, I got a notice from them the other day that they have reissued Don Peris's solo guitar Christmas album from 2007, 'Brighter Visions Beam Afar.' Very nice quiet stuff. Boy, do I love the album cover! It's too bad it's not being released on vinyl, as I'd love to see that pic in a larger size. I think I'd buy the record just for the cover.

The band also just posted a new Christmas song on here but I haven't listened to it yet:

I'm generally just a little suspicious of Christmas albums.

(1) If they're not at least mostly the traditional carols, i.e. if they're new compositions or secular holiday songs (worst of all, new secular holiday songs), there's a good chance I won't care much for the material. Curmudgeon.

(2)If they are at least mostly the traditional carols, then
(2a) either they are done in a traditional way, in which case I already have plenty of that, or
(2b) I won't like the way they're done.

But I'm sampling Brighter Visions now and it seems quite acceptable. :-) Makes me think, not surprisingly, of John Fahey's Christmas album, A New Possibility.

So I started that playing and 15 minutes later it was still going and I realized I was going about the house with Christmas music playing and it's only the first week of Advent. Good thing no traditionalist knocked on the door.

I used to have a habit of buying one new Christmas album every year, but the last two or three years I haven't really run across anything new that I really liked. Last year I bought a new Christmas choral album that turned out to be quite good, but I did that mainly because I have a older one by the same choir that I like a lot, and was excited to see another one by them.

"Winter Songs" by Ola Gjeilo is one that I listened to last year and wasn't totally sold on. But I put it on my Amazon reminder list, so I must have liked it enough to want to give it another spin.

There's an album called Winter Dreams by R Carlos Nakai and a guitarist which is instrumental versions of carols. I like it a lot. Think I wrote about it here...let's see...yeah, here it is:

It and several other Christmas albums. I'm sure the links in that post are no longer valide.

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