- SPIN Rating: of 10
Aimee Mann, the queen of dour arias like "Going Through the Motions," "Deathly," and (co-written with Elvis Costello) "The Fall of the World's Own Optimist," offers up a grim portrait of third-life crisis on this, the first single of her forthcoming album, @#%&! Smilers, out June 3.
"I thought my life would be different somehow" at 31 bemoans Mann (age 47), the creative force behind the Magnolia soundtrack and a one-hit-wonderdom survivor (with 'Til Tuesday, she sang the 1985 mega-hit "Voices Carry"). "I thought my life would be better by now, but it's not and I don't know where to turn." This fumbling thirtysomething drinks Guinness in the afternoon, feigns interest in a guy friend, and, as Easter "comes and goes," she ponders whether "Jesus knows."
It's overloaded with Mann's signature irony, so fans of her canon should find a comfort zone, but in terms of arrangement, "Thirty One Today" feels a bit tired. Gone are the buoyant, vaudeville overtones of Mann's earlier work with producer Jon Brion on the Magnolia soundtrack and the youthful, if sometimes optimistic timbre of her voice that made earlier hits like "That's Just What You Are" so appealing. Maybe it's just a fitting accompaniment to the downer storyline and lyrics, but there's something tossed off and casual about this track that's hard to skirt.