Few songwriters have Aimee Mann’s knack for making us feel good about feeling bad, which is why her latest album, Charmer, should be considered one of the best of the year. Sure, it’s laden with deeply personal songs of heartache, recrimination and regret that have a universal ring to them, but its real triumph is in the way Mann softens the blows—with tough insouciance reminiscent of Chrissie Hynde in “Disappeared”; with pure elation in the Irish-folk-sounding “Labrador”; or with wry humor in the Cars-like power-pop title track. She’s so trenchantly observant that she never sounds wounded: a perspective inspired by poets, bodhisattvas and maybe just a dash of Elvis Costello.
Mann also flaunts an old-school indie-rocker’s charm of her own onstage, and with three dates at as many different venues this week, there’s really no good reason not to catch her. Often bespectacled, always soothingly self-deprecating, she’s supported by a wily gang of veterans—Paul Bryan (backing vocals and bass), Jebin Bruni (keyboards), Jaime Edwards (guitar) and Ivan Edwards (drums)—so expect a few chestnuts, including “Save Me,” the centerpiece of director Paul Thomas Anderson’s sprawling Hollywood epic, Magnolia, to be unwrapped as the night progresses. Journeyman punk-rocker and acerbic wit Ted Leo opens, providing plenty of grist for staunch hipsters and crispy cynics in need of a hug.—Bill Murphy
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