Aimee Mann: Bachelor No. 2 (2000)

Aimee Mann has been reliably releasing solid albums for decades now without a bum note, dating all the way back to her days with 'Til Tuesday (and, yes, "Voices Carry" is a stone-cold classic, but they had a lot of great and unjustly overlooked music beyond the hit).  And while she's gradually moved from the slightly more poppy/alt.rock tunes of her early solo years to a mellower singer-songwriter vibe, she's a consistently gripping lyricist, and even her folkier work has a tuneful edge that, paired with her at times cutting vocals, keeps things interesting.

Pushed to pick a favorite, I'd likely go with her 1999 soundtrack to the film Magnolia, largely on the strength of "Save Me," one of my favorite songs of the era.  But song for song, I'm gonna opt for the follow up, Bachelor No. 2.  Recorded at the same time, it reprises most of Magnolia (sadly omitting both "Save Me" and her cover of Harry Nilsson's "One"), and checks in with twice as much music, losing none of the momentum of the pithier soundtrack.

There are highlights aplenty here -- the catchy, midtempo lead off track, "How Am I Different?" which benefits from some edgier guitar work; "Nothing Is Good Enough" (another Magnolia stand-out); the rocking "Ghost World," with a downbeat earnestness calling to mind the work of Liz Phair; and the punchy "Susan," an infectious pop-rocker perked up with a nifty, almost psychedelic guitar line.  But it's lovely all the way through, tales of heartbreak and disappointment that never dip into the maudlin, with lush but unobtrusive production, a perfect intro to Mann's highly respectable oeuvre. 

Here's the video for "Ghost World":
...and an audio rip of "Susan":
Here's a live take on "How Am I Different":

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