Album: Aimee Mann, @%&*! Smilers (Super Ego)

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The Independent Culture

At her very best, Aimee Mann brings to the art of pop songwriting a sort of misanthropic rapture. She really doesn't trust people much, and so we need the rapture part to make her world-view bearable.

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The first thing you look for on her records is melody, for in melody her rapture breeds. And there's plenty here: Mann's melodies wear their smiles turned down at the corners. There are a lot of keyboards too, to go with her acoustic guitar. It's a close, considered, not hugely rocking sound, as if a demo of itself. Not out of her top drawer, but then her drawers stack higher than most.

Pick of the Album: 'Phoenix': 'you love me like a dollar bill...'