Use it or lose it -- and I need to maintain my editing skills now more than ever. Though I'm lagging, it's never too late for Aimee Mann at the Fillmore.
Aimee Mann, the Fillmore, May 12, 2017: Aimee Mann's records kind of sneak up on me. Mind you, she's my favorite lyricist, but her arrangements and production haven't soared to the same heights as I enjoyed in the past. But often a few years after their release, her albums are on my mind again, and this tour was no different. I've dived back into Lost in Space and The Forgotten Arm, and they haven't disappointed. Lost in Space, especially, is so beautifully crafted and a pleasure to rediscover. At this rate, it may take me a few more listens to truly appreciate Mental Illness, though that's more a comment on my attention span than on Aimee's skills.
The changes from tour to tour and album to album are subtle, but Aimee has a way of building on each iteration of her career. Mental Illness is notable for Jonathan Coulton's contributions, and if you've paid attention to Aimee's career, you know he was in the cast of her last round of Christmas shows. On this record, he co-wrote a few songs, including one in which he purposely tried to mimic Aimee's tone, starting from the very first line -- which Aimee took as a compliment and an insult. Otherwise, Aimee's band remained the same, though I didn't recognize the drummer.
The show somewhat favored Aimee's new record, but I was more struck by the old singles and album cuts she chose. In fact, she opened with a couple of classics: "4th of July" and "Little Bombs," both of which I happen to love. She sort of sprinkled the newer tracks among the older tunes, and only now has it hit me that it probably had to do with bringing Jonathan Coulton into the show (more on that later).
Nonetheless, the selections from her back catalog were stellar. I could go on about the older tracks all day, but I'll single out three: "Humpty Dumpty" because as soon as they struck the opening notes, I realized it had been in in my head for the previous week and my subconscious had been yearning for it; "Long Shot" because it's so rare on her setlists; and "Deathly" because it's often overshadowed by more famous tracks from Bachelor No. 2, and it has my absolute favorite backing vocal (read: Jon Brion) on all of her songs. OK, consolation prize goes to "The Moth," another dirge dressed up in pop splendor from Lost in Space.
Jonathan Coulton joined the band for a good section of songs on the new album and to chat with Aimee. It's no surprise that they get along so well as two of the brainier songwriters around. Aimee has come a long way from her self-proclaimed awkward early days; her dry wit is a treat if you can keep up. Aimee had joined Jonathan during his opening set for a few songs and to remind everyone that her label was releasing his new album. Hey, we all gotta pay the bills, but it's gotta be nice if you can do it with friends.
The concert drove me to the perfect outcome: I've been reacquainting myself with Aimee's records -- I mean, more than usual -- and guess what? They're fantastic! Thanks, Aimee, for framing our darker thoughts in the shiniest chords.
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