Thursday, October 14, 2010

W.L.’s May Artist Of The Month Was Aimee Mann And Started With The Underwhelming Voices Carry!

The Good: Melodic, Good lyrics
The Bad: Short, Largely indistinct, Very uncatchy tunes, Some campy lyrics.
The Basics: A disappointing debut, Voices Carry sounds very much like archetypal mid-1980s pop.

While I wrote for the review site I worked for, I made a lot of fanfare of my Artist Of The Month declarations. Back in May, I had Aimee Mann as my focused artist (I’ll be restarting the Artist Of The Month immersion early next year, if all goes as planned!). Aimee Mann’s works I have a passing familiarity with and a deep love of from the Magnolia Soundtrack (click here for that review!) and I’m With Stupid (reviewed here!) which I quickly came to like. So, the first thing I learned about Aimee Mann as part of my weeks of exploration was that she got her commercial debut with a little band called ‘Til Tuesday. The debut of ‘Til Tuesday was Voices Carry.

Sadly, Voices Carry is very much a quintessential 1980s sound with guitars and synthesizers backed with drums and a lot of backing vocals. Sadly, listening to it now, I don’t feel like I am hearing the album with the weight of all that came after: it seems like it was derivative even at the time. The best possible way I can describe Voices Carry is that it sounds like the Bangles took over early 80s Fleetwood Mac. That is all.

With only eleven songs occupying 41:52, Voices Carry is very much the work of ‘Til Tuesday. All of the songs were written by Aimee Mann with all of the musical accompaniment written by the band ‘Til Tuesday. While the group did not produce any of the tracks, the fact that they play their own instruments lends one to believe that they ended up with much of the sound they wanted at the time.

Sadly, much of that sound is obvious mid-1980s pop. It’s not even rock. The songs are synth and guitar driven and I was actually surprised to discover that Aimee Mann played the bass on the album because the bass is so buried by the other instruments and even accompanying vocals. Almost all of the songs are obvious pop ballads and each and every track lacks a sense of weight or importance to it.

This is, in part, due to the vocals of Aimee Mann and her accompanying vocalists. Mann’s vocals are universally soprano and they are high with a perfect pitch. However, they also sound bubbly on each and every track, which is inappropriate given many of her lyrics. The songs lack a sense of weight because the instrumental accompaniment from Robert Holmes, Joey Pesce and Michael Hausman are drown out by equally perky vocals by Aimee Mann. It doesn’t matter what one is singing when it is presented in an upbeat manner.

And it seems like the band does have something to say. Aimee Mann is a wonderful poet. When she wrote “If I'm calling you out of the blue / It's because it's never ending / And if I'm dragging out picture of you / It's because I'm only pretending / And if I'm looking over my shoulder / It's just because I hope you'll be there” (“Looking Over My Shoulder”) she manages to write about the fine line between love and obsession which is seldom explored in pop music. And despite some simplistic lines, the song works.

What the album Voices Carry is most known for, though, is the single “Voices Carry.” That song had a memorable and somewhat haunting bridge and refrain with the lines “I try so hard not to get upset / Because I know all the trouble I'll get / Oh, he tells me tears are something to hide / And something to fear / And I try so hard to keep it inside / So no one can hear / Hush hush keep it down now voices carry” (“Voices Carry”). The insecurities in relationships come out, even when one interprets the song as something other than being about infidelity. Mann illustrates she is an able poet on that track.

Sadly, it is in the minority for this particular album. Voices Carry is plagued by pop songs that are incredibly high on pointless repetition, like “Love In A Vacuum,” which has the title repeated so frequently it loses all meaning. And songs like “Maybe Monday” have obvious rhymes like “I have promises to keep / Tell me again / I might stop crying in my sleep . . .” which sound nonsensical even in context.

Thus, my first outing for the month with Aimee Mann falls flat. The album feels dated and unoriginal. For an artist (which I know Mann is) it is easy to see why she went her own way. I cannot wait to hear the results.

The best track is “Voices Carry,” the low point is “Are You Serious?”

For other, similar, artists or works, please check out my reviews of:
Siren – Heather Nova
Tuesday Night Music Club – Sheryl Crow
Mortal City – Dar Williams


For other music reviews, please visit my index page by clicking here!

© 2010 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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