On her solo debut Whatever, the former vocalist for Til Tuesday cements her position as a center-stage artist and top-notch songwriter, and Aimee Mann's blend of wit, smarts, cynicism, and downright humability make for a wonderfully pleasing collection of catchy songs. Musically, the jangle-pop feel of Whatever harkens back to the Beatles and the Byrds but without forsaking its contemporary origin. Lyrically, it is often hard to know whether Mann is spilling her guts out over a love or a deal gone bad. In fact, it is often a combination. But the seamless ease with which she tells the tales, moving from her head to her heart and back again, exposes her mighty talent. Teaming with some of her former bandmates, including longtime collaborator Jon Brion, gives Mann a comfort and a sure footing from which to climb and stretch, which she does with certainty. "I Should've Known," "Could've Been Anyone," and "Say Anything" get the heads bobbing, while the more somber "4th of July" and "Stupid Thing" will beckon forth even the loneliest of hankies. And how many artists pay tribute to Charles Dickens? (Witness "Jacob Marley's Chain.") Talk about literate songwriters and you have to speak of Aimee Mann. The dismissive tone of the title belies the time that was put into this album, for even after its recording, it took Mann quite a long while to find a home. Initially released on Imago Records, Whatever was later reissued by Geffen Records.
by Kelly McCartney