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Jan 18, 2018







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Aimee Mann, Mental Illness (SuperEgo Records)




 Aimee Mann, Mental Illness (SuperEgo Records)

“Great songwriters” are defined by people in different ways, going by heart-tug appeal, dance appeal, hooks, technical wizardry, whatever. Boston’s own Aimee Mann, an oft-lauded songwriter, did write some cool stuff when she was with til Tuesday, but I have to admit that’s when she fell off my radar, leaving a decent-enough taste in my mouth owing to her Grade-A punk attitude. After that, she became a sort of Billboard “It” girl, dogged by sexy photos of her draped over then-boyfriend Jules Shear, the wunderkind songwriter — remember those days? Anyway, her last full-length, 2014’s Charmer, found her indulging in a Pretenders-like mid-tempo bar-rock recipe, magically dressing up the tunes with subtle hooks in the manner of a chef who knows that apricots would work spectacularly in such-and-so place as an improvement over tangerines. This, though, is mostly unplugged MOR-folk, a re-emergence of the throaty, guitar-pickin’ Anne Murray character she can summon at will, a tack she thought would be funny. All the disillusionment and quiet despair you’ve heard about, though, go out the window upon the whimsical, Nilsson-ish “Stuck in the Past” and a few other songs. Naw, it’s not a bummer album, just a good one. She’ll perform at the Wilbur Theatre in Boston on April 24. A — Eric W. Saeger




Cold War Kids, L.A. Divine (Capitol Records)
CD REVIEWS: April 6, 2017

04/06/17
By Eric Saeger news@hippopress.com



 This is one Pitchfork.com got wrong way back in 2004, when their writer dismissed this Long Beach indie-rock band’s debut album Robbers & Cowards as an example of bad songwriting. Not only wrong, but the writer’s insults became like some old hag’s curse, with many reviewers still dissing CWK as bad songwriters while allowing Franz Ferdinand to get away with a lot worse. Fine, the band was a poor-man’s Spoon/Strokes hybrid in the beginning, but at least they seemed like they were trying, even last time out, in 2014’s Hold My Home, where they did try a few different angles, throwing Nathan Willett’s INXS-clone vocals over material that ranged from New Order bass-bump to (let’s just say it) Mars Volta-like lunkheadedness. But they’re a Capitol Records product as of now, and the only thing indie about this record is the unnecessary wooziness of “L.A. River,” which would have just been a regular tune if the engineer hadn’t done some amateur scratching with the tape. Past that it’s all arena-soul-tinged stuff, very much like INXS with fewer backbeats but yes, with gospel-girl-crew backups to emphasize their direction (“So Tied Up”). I have no idea why these guys aren’t bigger, but that surely can’t go on forever.






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