The Forgotten Arm
Aimee Mann has had a concept album in her for some time now. After lending nine songs to P.T. Anderson's 1999 film Magnolia, Mann mined even darker territory on 2002's Lost in Space, which she described in concept-album terms in the May issue of Harp: "I think Lost in Space was so home studio, acoustic-y . . . because I really wanted it to sound lost in space. I wanted it to sound really lonely and desolate in a very disconnected way." Though less insular-sounding than Space, The Forgotten Arm doesn't stray far from Mann's signature style: loping melodies leading up to knockout hooks in the higher register, all delivered in the singer's world-weary, nasal deadpan. Yet halfway through Arm's opener, "Dear John," something new emerges: Jeff Trott's great, piercing electric guitar solo, part of Mann's attempt to link her concept album to the format's '70s heyday. The next track, "The King of the Jailhouse," is a typical Aimee Mann down-tempo ballad gussied up with a bit of country twang. Mann recently described the album to Ice as "a soundtrack to a movie that I was making in my own mind," yet it doesn't succeed in cinematic terms. The characters are mere clusters of attributes: He's a drug-addicted boxer with an "anchor tattoo," she loves him despite his addiction, like that. Worse, Mann is so busy telling their story that the music starts feeling perfunctory. Not unlike Paul Simon's Songs From the Capeman, an interesting experiment for fans only. NEAL SCHINDLER
Aimee Mann plays South Lake Union Park, 845 Terry Ave. N., 206-628-0888, at 8 p.m. Sat., Aug. 6. $32.
Superstars #1 Hits Remixed
(Sony/BMG Strategic Marketing)
This compilation of mostly previously released material (aka The Gayest Album in the World . . . Ever!) is one big shiny remixed hit after another, mostly by solo women. This doesn't preclude it from being ridiculously entertaining, thanks chiefly to the fact that most of the remixes are actually pretty great. The opener, a Jason Nevins take on Kelly Clarkson's "Since U Been Gone," loses most of its original instrumentation, but Clarkson's vocal retains its fieriness when pressed against a terrifically squelchy bass line. (Is that a Roland TB-303 in your pants, Jason, or are you just happy to see us?) David Morales' 1993 Def Club Mix of Mariah Carey's "Dreamlover" is justifiably considered a classic for the way it mixes Italo-house piano with Mariah's gorgeous, resung vocals (far superior to her original vocal track). And a few years ago, Peter Rauhofer made a bona fide anthem of Christina Aguilera's "Beautiful" by recasting it as a throbbing, urgent, very up-tempo track yet with some requisite quiet breakdowns (dancers need a break, you know). These, and the rest of the 19 cuts here, appear as radio edits, but they're all deliriously tight, sing-along-loudly ones. If you can make Dido's "White Flag" sound good, you can do whatever you want. THOMAS INSKEEP
The second outing from French trio Télépopmusik is plagued a little by prenostalgia, attempting to reignite the electronica torch once held by Hooverphonic, a band that married glorious vocals with symphonic synths. (Coincidentally, Hooverphonic's best album was titled Blue Wonder Power Milk.) Angel Milk's highlight is the rousing "Into Everything," where vocalist Deborah Foreman's whispers to "open your eyes" are swallowed by an orchestral swell that owes much to Blue Wonder's "Battersea." So it goes for keeping the genre's most pronouncedly '90s strain alive: a soothing, innocuous presence that helps first-time ecstasy users lose their minds while loosing their couch potato parents from hard-earned cash (see "Breathe," Télépop's 2002 hit, now forever linked to the image of a Mitsubishi SUV). Angela McCluskey, that song's voice and the new album's strength, rasps through "Love's Almighty" and "Nothing's Burning" like a phantom from the jazz era, where embellishments seem an unnecessary but nice afterthought. Similarly, Mau's vocals on "Anyway" give the song a slight escapist beauty, though on two others he attempts a Mezzanine menace that's best left to the Massive Attack lads who did it first, and not so long ago. Lukewarm. RACHEL SHIMP