Aimee Mann The Forgotten Arm

Despite her obvious talents, when an Aimee Mann album falls into your lap, you know the product very well. Tales of turmoil and wry observation layered around a strong rock background and Mann’s formidable, distinctive voice. It’s a formula that’s worked admirably well since Bachelor No. 2, and this new concept album is not going to rock anyone’s boat. From the driving beat and rock licks of opener "Dear John,” to the piano-driven "I Can’t Help You Anymore,” Mann crafts her songs and delivery to give the goods that her fans are used to. Befitting her boxer-themed tales, this album is actually a much more muscular affair, particularly "Clean Up for Christmas,” which is one of the noisiest songs Mann’s graced us with. Vocally, Mann has never been better, with her husky, yet smooth alto the strongest its’ ever been; ample evidence is found in the befittingly wrenching "That’s How I Knew This Story Would Break My Heart.” If the album suffers from anything its Mann’s refusal to take any big leaps with her sound or delivery. Now, there’s no need for a leap into prog-rock, but something different may help stem the tide and stop any other strong work being forgotten like this album’s titular arm. (SuperEgo)