Aimee Mann brings it all to the table — great lyrics, great voice and great delivery. I know a lot of people got into her with Til Tuesday, her former band (a pleasure I discovered later), but my first exposure was ‘I’m With Stupid’ when she was corralled in with a whole load of supposedly similar artists. From the first she stood out from the crop of female singer-songwriters who were being pushed at the time — the ones for whom the merest sprinkling of irony was supposed to substitute for intelligence; Aimee was the real deal. I don’t think there are many songwriters out there with her level of lyrical dexterity — her novelistic nailing of her subjects. Not that I judge someone by these things but I think her biggest success was through the movie Magnolia and the soundtrack that she provided for it — a fucking amazing film and some great songs. Mann manages to at once be sardonic and unerringly human — when she says something about one of the characters in her songs you never feel that she is poking fun at them merely that she is drawing attention to the absurdity of the human condition. Talking of the 4th of July she describes it as ‘what a waste of gunpowder and sky’ coming off as world weary, political, cynical and humourous in a very economical lyric — this is just one example. Bachelor No. 2, containing some songs from Magnolia, is a heartbreaking album — but through the pain you can sense the redemption, see how one can forge the ability to throw a wry smile at it all. Her later albums are just as great, but for my money there is just something about those first three: Whatever, I’m With Stupid and Bachelor No.2; they are definite repeat plays, all of them.