Aimee Mann, '@#%&! Smilers' (Superego)

@#%&! Smilers
Critical Mass
Label: Superego

by Barry Walters

Midway through another nuanced collection of mid-tempo '70s-pop-referencing tunes that document the lives of folks who manage only fleeting moments of happiness between protracted stretches of frustration, this L.A.- based veteran songwriter runs head-on into what she typically approaches sideways. "I thought my life would be better by now," she sighs over an anxious keyboard riff in "Thirty One Today," a song about getting older (but no wiser) that's so simple and catchy and scarily true that it opens an ordinarily shut door into Mann's dimly lit, astutely rendered world.

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