Forgotten Arm

Forgotten Arm

4.8 6
by Aimee Mann
     
 

Depression rarely sounds as sweet as it does in the hands of Aimee Mann; her skill in that arena puts her in the company of Nick Drake and Elliott Smith. The onetime Til Tuesday frontwoman has shaped a career writing about folks encumbered by loneliness and addiction, and her fifth album -- a song cycleSee more details below

Overview

Depression rarely sounds as sweet as it does in the hands of Aimee Mann; her skill in that arena puts her in the company of Nick Drake and Elliott Smith. The onetime Til Tuesday frontwoman has shaped a career writing about folks encumbered by loneliness and addiction, and her fifth album -- a song cycle chronicling the star-crossed relationship between a drug-addicted boxer/Vietnam vet and the girl he romances at the state fair -- is no different. Mann set the story in 1972 and says that she spent time listening to Traffic, the Band, and early Rod Stewart and Elton John to get in the mood. That vibe informs the keyboard-driven tunes on The Forgotten Arm, recorded with the same touring band behind her for 2004's Live at St. Ann's Warehouse and boasting a more muscular sound than her last studio disc, Lost in Space. As always, swooning melodies and minor keys define Mann's songs, which bristle with surface tension, thanks to the contrast between her butter-smooth delivery and barbed lines such as "Kicking is hard, but the bottom is harder" ("I Can't Get My Head Around It"). The billowy "Goodbye Caroline" is vintage Mann, an aching breakup tune given added depth by the roiling keyboards and searing electric guitars. Mann maintains a consistent tone throughout with songs wearing cheerful titles like "I Was Thinking I Could Clean Up for Christmas" ("Because I can't live loaded and I can't live sober, and I've been that way since October"), but wallowing in the muck seems to work for her. While it might have been nice to find a winsome love song to engage us in the album's thematic romance -- she comes closest on "Beautiful," which pines, "Why does it hurt me to feel so much tenderness?" -- perhaps Mann knows where her strengths lie. And The Forgotten Arm flaunts them like tattoos.

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Editorial Reviews

All Music Guide - Stephen Thomas Erlewine
The prospect of an Aimee Mann concept album concerning an addicted boxer returning from the Vietnam War isn't necessarily enticing, but after the meandering, adrift Lost in Space, a change of pace of any kind is welcome for the acclaimed, gifted, and increasingly predictable singer/songwriter. Mann must have sensed this too, since she not only committed herself to a narrative song cycle, but she cut the record live with a new band under the guidance of producer Joe Henry. The results aren't quite as different as you might expect -- her music is very much in the vein of Bachelor No. 2, right down to the vague carnivalesque overtones associated with Jon Brion -- but the project helped focus Mann both as a writer and a record-maker. The songs on The Forgotten Arm are sharper, stronger, more memorable than those on Lost in Space and the performances are robust and lively. As the record progresses, the songs take on a certain samey quality -- a flaw that's not uncommon to Mann's albums -- but as individual cuts, the songs are quite strong. That is a bit of an oddity for a concept album, but the concept seems like a MacGuffin anyway, a way for her to write some stark songs about addiction and to force discipline upon herself. She had a similar situation with the songs from Magnolia that spilled onto Bachelor No. 2 -- when she had to fit her tunes to the requirements of Paul Thomas Anderson's film, it made for better music. While the music here isn't as good as that on Bachelor, the strict structure does help give The Forgotten Arm direction, helping shape it into one of her more consistent albums.

Product Details

Release Date:
05/03/2005
Label:
Superego Records
UPC:
0698519001825
catalogNumber:
18
Rank:
53865

Tracks

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Album Credits

Performance Credits

Aimee Mann   Primary Artist,Acoustic Guitar,Electric Guitar,Vocals
Chris Bruce   Electric Guitar
Paul Bryan   Bass,Background Vocals
Julian Coryell   Guitar,Electric Guitar,Keyboards,Vocals,Background Vocals,Slide Guitar
Victor Indrizzo   Percussion,Drums,cowbell
Jeff Trott   Mandolin,Electric Guitar,Guitar (Baritone)
Jay Bellerose   Percussion,Drums
Jebin Bruni   Keyboards
Mark Visher   Tenor Saxophone
Willie Murillo   Trumpet
Jason Thor   Trombone
West End Horns   Group

Technical Credits

Joe Henry   Producer
Aimee Mann   Composer,Art Direction
Gail Marowitz   Art Direction
Gavin Lurssen   Engineer
Ryan Freeland   Engineer
Gwen Smith   Illustrations
Willie Murillo   Arranger

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