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5.0 out of 5 stars 1 customer review

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Product Details

  • Audio CD (June 3 2008)
  • Number of Discs: 1
  • Label: United Musicians / SuperEgo
  • ASIN: B00171MNL0
  • Other Editions: Audio CD  |  MP3 Download
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars 1 customer review
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #243,240 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)
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1. Freeway
2. Stranger Into Starman
3. Looking For Nothing
4. Phoenix
5. Borrowing Time
6. It's Over
7. 31 Today
8. The Great Beyond
9. Medicine Wheel
10. Columbus Avenue
11. Little Tornado
12. True Believer
13. Ballantines

Product Description

@#%&! Smilers is Aimee Mann's 7th solo release to date. The album is a return to form after the artistic detours of 2005's concept album The Forgotten Arm and 2006's Christmas CD One More Drifter in the Snow. Featuring thirteen new original songs, producer Paul Bryan describes the record as "deceptively powerful...very rich and grand-sounding." The songs range from the stripped-down-to-basics of "Columbus Avenue," to the almost Cars-esque synth-pop of "Freeway," alongside the classic Jimmy Webb/Glen Campbell-era "Phoenix," and the hushed creepiness of "Little Tornado." The final song "Ballantines" is a duet with Sean Hayes complete with barroom piano and trombone section. All songs were penned by Mann with the exception of "True Believer" which was co-written with fellow singer-songwriter Grant Lee Phillips.

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Top Customer Reviews

By Louis TOP 500 REVIEWER on June 10 2008
Format: Audio CD Verified Purchase
Although Aimee Mann is not your typical frontpage superstar, this woman has built a steady and devoted following since the mid-80s (when she burst onto the music scene as the leader of the long-gone band Til Tuesday). Two decades later, having survived more ups and downs than many of her musical peers assembled together, she is still an essential and creative artist with a deeply personal songwriting and performing style - not to mention a truly independant spirit in a business where style is often more important than substance.

"Smilers", her sixth complete solo album (not counting the brilliant "Magnolias" soundtrack) continues her tradition of biting, sharp and introspective pop songs with everything you'd expect from her, all the while avoiding complacency. From the engaging and catchy opener ("Freeway", also the debut single) right to the lilting finale ("Ballantines"), the thirteen songs included here form a perfectly segued collection of songs. Of particular interest are the aforementioned tracks, plus the showstopping "31 today" (the closest thing she's come to a pop hit since "Voices carry"), the achingly beautiful "Phoenix" and "It's over", the uptempo "Borrowing time", the irrepressible "Medicine wheel", the haunting "The great beyond" and the pensive "Columbus avenue". The album's unlikely highlight may arguably be "Little tornado", a quiet but powerful song whose understated arrangments and minimalistic production prove yet again that less is more; the hook is so subtle that you probably won't notice it at first, but you'll keep humming it for the rest of the day - which might be the perfect way of describing Aimee Mann's music.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) HASH(0xb239a1ec) out of 5 stars 76 reviews
80 of 92 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0xb2247d68) out of 5 stars Another Excellent Release from Aimee Mann June 3 2008
By Tange - Published on
Format: Audio CD
Couldn't disagree more with the couple of folks who say this is "more of the same" from Aimee Mann, and who have given the album 3 stars (and sounds like, from their reviews, they're just bitter over a few extra tracks used to promote the album on I-Tunes).

"More of the same" (Whatever, IWS, Bachelor #2, Lost In Space, The Forgotten Arm) would be enviable by any other singer/songwriter. Mann's been nominated for Grammy's, Golden Globe, Academy Award (Mr. Oscar), and has literally been on most year end top ten album lists with each of the releases already mentioned. I'll take more of the same from Mann any day of the week.

Smilers is indeed "more of the same" in terms of quality songwriting. There's not a throwaway track on Smilers (which consists of 13 tracks). The folks moaning about Itunes having 2 extra live tracks and 1 bonus studio track? If the rest of the album was so disappointing, then it's unusual that one would clamor for live versions of 2 songs they already have, and 1 "more of the same" studio track. Aimee's self-described bitter album was I'm With Stupid......maybe these fans are stuck in that period of her work <grin>.

Smilers opens with Freeway, a song that has a sound not unlike something the Cars (the band) would have written in the 70s. I can't recall another Aimee Mann solo album with anything that sounds remotely like the Cars - but there's a coupla tracks on Smilers, due to the use of moog synths as a replacement for the electric guitar (another first on an Aimee release, even counting til tuesday).

Smilers also marks the first time I can recall that Aimee has used a brass section, which she uses on a number of the songs here to great effect. If she's used brass in the past, none of the songs on Smilers brings any of her past songs to mind. Momentum (the b-side to That's Just What You Are and also on the Magnolia soundtrack) has a playfulness that I suppose one could compare, but still sounds nothing like these new songs.

There's also the use of strings on songs like Phoenix (a personal favorite) as well as It's Over (another favorite). Phoenix is another hallmark Mann composition that really captures the essence of what the character in the song is feeling. This is accomplished without an ounce of melodrama. Her vocals are equal parts regret, resignation, and relief. Listening to this track is like being in the back seat of the character's car and empathizing as if you're right there.

I could go over every song on the album but I won't. It's an excellent album.

I've been a fan of Mann's since I was 16 (1986) with the release of Welcome Home. For me, most of her albums alternate between surprising me with how much she's grown from, say, the previous release, OR, strike me as strong continuations/explorations of the types of songs she's known for - but they never feel like repeats. For me, Smilers is another jump forward and is easily a "five star" album.
25 of 26 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0xb2247dbc) out of 5 stars can a 55 year old man love new pop music? Dec 7 2008
By Philip J. Herman - Published on
Format: Audio CD
I cautiously took Aimee Mann's cd Bachelor No. 2 from my local library because I want to acquaint myself with current music. Usually I listen to bits and pieces and return the cd's with a shudder. Bachelor No. 2 was so infectious that I bought it; then I bought Smilers and Aimee mann's Christmas album. Thinking that I was being a little crazy, I went on Amazon and listened to samples of all her recordings. There are no bad songs. I haven't purchased music in twenty years. And making matters worse I am ( or was ) a Frank Zappa and Tom Waits fan. Aimee Mann's music is GOOD in it's own way. It's creative, catchy, infectious, moody, original... and she has her own SOUND. I detect whiffs of Carole King ( Tapestry, I am that old ), Fountains of Wayne, and Emmit Rhodes ( which is why some of her songs sound like the Beatles ). But the conglomeration of influences is distilled through a unique vessel... Aimee Mann. I hum her songs while I'm living my life.
19 of 23 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0xb2258210) out of 5 stars Some say it's a "return to form;" I say it's bloody brilliant as usual! June 5 2008
By Sean H. Campbell - Published on
Format: Audio CD
I admit: I've loved every last thing the wonderful and peerless Aimee Mann has done since 'Til Tuesday. There's little doubt in my mind that she's a melodic and lyric genius, even if we bandy about the term "genius" a little too loosely. It all seems to come so easy to her, and there's an intoxicating brilliance about her every move. Seeing her live is heavenly.

All that having been said, her new album is yet another treasure. You cannot but be wowed by the understated beauty of, let's say, "31 Today" or the stuck-in-your-head-and-you-don't-care quality of "Freeway." Buy without hesitation. The whole thing is terrific.
7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0xb22585d0) out of 5 stars A Lot To @#%&*! Smile About......BUT...!!!!!! Aug. 5 2008
By Jef Fazekas - Published on
Format: Audio CD
You can always count on Aimee Mann to do something new and exciting on each new release, be it the alternating narrative on 2005's brilliant concept album THE FORGOTTEN ARM, or the "no electric guitar" policy on the new @#%&*! SMILERS. Lush and full, even without the aforementioned electric axes, @#%&*! SMILERS is, in many ways, classic Mann. However, that may not be enough....but more on that later! The album opens on an upbeat note with the effervescent "Freeway." Quirky percussion, reptiian keyboard runs that weave in and out and a lead vocal that both seduces and soars all combine to make a slice of pop perfection. Add some wonderful lyrics ("The road to Orange County/Leaves an awful lot of leeway/Where everyone's a doctor/Or a specialist in retail") and you have a real winner. Initially, I was less than thrilled with "Stranger Into Starman" just didn't feel...finished. However, after repeated plays, I've come to appreciate the song. With it's ominous, low-key piano arrangement and smoky lead vocal, there's an after-hours, torchy vibe to the track that's mesmerizing, growing on you with each listen. One of the disc's high points, "Looking For Nothing" is absolutely stunning. Singing in around three different registers throughout the song, Mann's lead vocal is a thing of natural beauty, while the instrumentation is killer (Special mention need be made of Jamie Edwards' glorious piano riffs). Equal parts melancholy and soothing, this ranks among Mann's all-time Top Ten best songs. Things continue strongly with the country-flavored "Phoenix." This could've been just another break-up song, but Mann elevates it to a whole other level. Opening with the clever lines "Got out of Phoenix/Just in time/A box of Kleenex/For the ride", things just keep getting better and better. Lovely acoustic guitars are juxtaposed with muted (but powerful) orchestration, creating a wonderfully relaxed aural cushion of sound. Toss in more thoughtful, universal lyrics that everyone can identify with ("It's hard to know/When to cut and run/You balance heartaches with your fun/But when the scales tip/You know you're done"), and you have the type of smart pop song that's becoming a rarity in music today. Up next is my favorite cut off the album, the rollicking "Borrowing Time." From it's hypnotic lead vocal to the swinging horns, this cut is unlike anything else on the album. Combine a dose of breath-taking imagery ("Get up - the needle has pricked her little finger/She wants the beautiful child/The blood will bring her") and you have an instant winner! LOVE this song!! There's a shimmering delicacy to "It's Over" that's captivating. Opening with just some gorgeous piano playing and understated orhestration, Mann's vocal dances over the somber, wistful lyrics. Building in tempo and instrumentation as it moves along, the song climaxes in a swirling whirlpool of perfectly mixed and matched sounds. Mann also has an innate talent for looking at every day experiences and putting her own spin on them, as she does with "31 Today." This tale of looking at where life has taken you, it's achievements and disappointments, on, of all days, your birthday, is actually quite enchanting, what with it's hushed verses and lilting chorus. In this case, the road not travelled can be just as enjoyable as the one taken. Things slow down a bit at this point. "The Great Beyond" has a real nice bass line anchoring it, but the rest of the song is a bit schizo, like two or three songs spliced into one. Thing is, we've heard all of them on past Mann albums. I never thought I'd be saying this about an Aimee Mann song, but this is filler. Ditto "Medicine Wheel." Everything here is....nice...from the down beat arrangement to the dour lead vocal, but this cut could very easily have been an outtake from THE FORGOTTEN ARM. I've come to expect every Aimee Mann song to "WOW!" me, and a lot of the songs in the middle of @#%&*! SMILERS fall short of that mark. The same can be said about "Columbus Avenue"'s nice enough, with a pretty lead vocal and muted arrangement, moving along at a steady pace, but I expect more from an artist of Mann's caliber than "nice" or "steady." As I said earlier, I've come to expect that "WOW!" factor, and it's just not here. It does, however, return with "Little Tornado." Mix together a lead vocal that is equal parts sinister and forlorn, edgy, minimalist instrumentation and a hushed chorus of backing vocals that envoke a swirling cyclone, and you end up with a masterpiece (Dave Eggers' spaghetti Western-like whistling tops it off like some eerie cherry). Brilliant! "True Believer" has a melodic edge to it that just kind of works it's way under your skin, while there's a goofiness to "Ballantines" that's both sweet and silly (Another one of Mann's many talents is her ability to blend opposites, i.e. sunny instrumentation with dark lyrics, a perfect example being showcased here: "It must be hard/Ringing the bells/Of doors that don't swing wide anymore"). very nice, indeed. And kudos to Sean Hayes! Soo...what are my overall feelings about @#%&*! SMILERS? Well, like every Aimee Mann album, I love it.....BUT! As enjoyable as everything's been since 2000's BACHELOR #2, I'd like to see her shake things up a bit more on her next release, maybe revisiting some of the sounds and stylings from her Til Tuesday days, or the excellent one/two punch of '93's WHATEVER and '96's I'M WITH STUPID. Now THAT would make me really smile! (As with all my reviews, I'm giving the disc an extra half a star for including the lyrics, as well as an additional half a star for the gorgeous packaging).
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0xb22586b4) out of 5 stars Grumpy @#%&*! GENIUS! Aug. 10 2008
By Bruce Donley - Published on
Format: Audio CD
I must rectify the lack of mention of the best song on this consistently great album, "It's Over", which is a beautiful kick in the teeth, an exquisite encapsulation of the existential honesty that runs consistently throughout Ms. Mann's (Mrs. Penn's? Nah) incredible catalogue. We all need the reality check she provides us, the mirror with merciless lighting that shows us our flaws, and thereby paradoxically enlightens and uplifts us, after we've undergone the process of self-examination and begun the work of redemption. We adults all have to EARN the right to smile with authenticity, n'est pas? (Children get a pass, naturally.)

And then there's the irresistible HOOKS, detailed production, and the pure, refined, intelligent and clever lyric, all patronizing boiled away from the bone.

I think of Aimee Mann's best songs as being on a par with the introspective Sinatra at his peak, or Billie Holliday. Indestructible ART, Desert Island Music, Voyager LP nominations! Transformative!

Did I mention that this disc is GREAT already? BUY--it'll only hurt for a moment, and then the healing begins...