Remember when singer/songwriters used to write about beautiful losers instead of singing entries out of their diaries? Aimee Mann returns to this tradition with "The Forgotten Arm" (a reference to a boxing move, which seems too complicated for a non-sports person like me to explain, but from what I gather, the gist of it is this: an boxer is knocked out by the deliberately unused or apparently non-dominant arm of his/her opponent).
This CD, as mentioned in other reviews, is very much akin to the novella form. Its packaging supports the comparison in all areas, including breaking the song lyrics into chapters. One page of the insert contains a "chapter" (song lyrics), and the opposite page contains the associated illustration & caption (gorgeous, by the way. Aimee Mann picked the perfect artist, Seth, for "Lost in Space," and has once again picked the perfect artist for the moody depiction of the two lost souls in "The Forgotten Arm").
While much has been made of her influences on this CD, none of the names that I've read come to mind when I listen to this CD. Aimee Mann said the setting of the "story" is the 1970s, and the music follows this theme. But, the artists that come to mind when I listen to "The Forgotten Arm" are Jackson Browne, Carly Simon, and Joni Mitchell - all who in the '70s hit their strides singing about impossible love affairs & the resulting heartaches. Beyond the lyrics, the musical style also seems to harken back to those three artists, too (for me, anyway).
Yet this is not just a period piece. While "I Can't Get My Mind Around It" sounds like it would be at home alongside Jackson Browne's "These Days" or "Fountain of Sorrow," "Going Through the Motions" is most definitely 21st-century Aimee Mann. "Little Bombs" sounds like high-Joni Mitchell to me (although I don't think Mann consciously borrows anything from Mitchell), and "She Really Wants You" could be the untold, true feelings of the woman who sings only her anger in "You're So Vain." But Aimee Mann stakes her own original claim to this sort of genre. "King of the Jailhouse" and "Beautiful" are true pop/rock masterpieces, sort of in the vein of Neil Young, yet remind me only of Aimee Mann and her careful, impecable perfectionism with lyrics, melodies, and arrangements.
This release is something different, something people may not be used to. Aimee Mann has achieved a unique, concept-driven, and altogether successful album here. There is not a single "skip-over" on this rich and nuanced CD. (Hit the applause button here and scream "encore" for Aimee Mann!!)