Quintessential Albums :: Aimee Mann :: Whatever

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Quintessential Album Series :: Whatever :: Aimee Mann

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A Little History:

Whatever is the first solo album by the American singer-songwriter Aimee Mann, released in 1993.

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I’ve Had It is one of the songs featured in Nick Hornby’s book 31 Songs. The album with special note for the song 4th of July was included by Elvis Costello in his “Costello’s 500” list for Vanity Fair.

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Whatever received mostly positive reviews from the critics. Most praised her sense of melody and the wordplay of her lyrics, exemplified by Entertainment Weekly in “hooky songs” and “evocative lyrics“.

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The Los Angeles Times reflected this by saying she “mixes words like a master, catching lifetimes of ache and Angst” in her songs while the Chicago Tribune compared her to Elvis Costello.

Rolling Stone cited her music as “sunny, surreal melodies” with “razor-sharp lyrics“.

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 What Makes This “Quintessential” to me?

This is my first, and most played, Aimee Mann album I own. It is one of those albums that has followed along with me, and been a soundtrack to my life, during many chapters and incarnations. The songs have traded off being my favorites, my most relevent, and sometimes my most painful during those times, as well. I’ve listened to this album on two cross-country moves, three break-ups, and while writing a few chapters of a novel I will (hopefully) someday finish.

I’ve been lucky to see Aimee Mann play live four times, and three of those four she sang a few of my favorites off this album. The most memorable was the acoustic set she performed for the show I caught in Chicago while visiting a lover at the time during Valentine’s Day. She sang stripped down versions of both Fourth of July (my absolute favorite off of this album) and I’ve Had It.

Fourth of July reminds me of past relationships that collapsed in on themselves, and the regrets and bittersweet memories that linger afterwards, like the cloying smell and smoke that stick around after the fireworks are set-off on Independence Day. There is this sense of freedom that explodes when we finally leave something broken apart, but there are pieces of things, of feelings, and photographs that stay beneath our skin, like shrapnel after a war, that still sting years later.

I’ve Had It is one of those still painful songs to listen to. There are too many images that play like a slideshow on the inside of each eyelid when I close my eyes and listen. It isn’t the story being sung exactly. I don’t have a band break-up to recall from my past, but I’ve had break-ups that felt bigger than a one-on-one relationship. The kind that costs you a community of friends, or a place that feels like home. As you walk away it is a different sort of moving on, with bigger things you will have to try to remember, or learn to forget. I think everyone experiences a loss like that at least once in their lives – their own version of a band breaking-up, or the end of an era.

The opening song, I Should’ve Known, reminds me of the mid-90’s and the re-defining times that I found myself in then. It reminds me of a patchwork dress I used to wear over crushed velvet tights, the taste of Marlboro lights, and the way the salty sea air felt like in the wee hours of night, or would it have been morning then, where we’d sit by the shore just past Newport Beach. I made a series of mistakes then, and just as many successes, I’d like to think.

My Top 5 Favorite Songs:

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1. 4th of July

“So that’s today’s memory lane,
with all the pathos and pain,
another chapter in a book where the chapters are endless,
and they’re always the same;
a verse, and a verse, and refrain.”

It was never my favorite holiday, but somehow it became us and ours, for reasons I still could not explain. Now the holiday brings the weight of loss and sadness to me, a shadow I can never seem to completely shake off. They all get on with it, they all expect that I have, too, especially me, but the past is still there, with me, and it still hurts like hell.

2. I’ve Had It

“Oh, experience is cheap,
if that’s the company you keep,
but I’ll never get that disease,
cause I’ve had it.
I’ve had it.”

The boxes felt heavier on the way back down the rickety back stairs than they ever did on the way in. This had been a place of dreams shared, of plans plotted on the bare floors, that night we snuck in before our lease really began and made love in the kitchen; I suppose back then we really had it. I could hear the back up sound of the moving truck and I looked at you then, hardly recognizing the eyes in front of me that I had once sworn were forever mine.

3. Mr. Harris

“And honestly I might be stupid to think,
love is love,
but I do.”

Though I have no older man love to relate to, this song still resonates deeply with me. I think we all have that one love from our lives that no one understood/understands, except of us, and that love, that together between make all the sense in the world. I think that is what I connect to.

4. I Should’ve Known

“And I don’t know what else you hear,
but it’s not me weeping.”

Sometimes my writing is misconstrued as my heart being tied somewhere, and to someone, from the past, but most of the time it is where the muse has taken me, where a song has led in my box of memories, or something I feel like writing out of me. Funny how often ex-lovers, or ex-somethings, will mistake it as me crying my eyes out over them still when it couldn’t be any farther from the truth – my past is right where it belongs, I may wave at it, or write about it, but I do not want to ever go back.

5. Stupid Thing

“Maybe that’s just how I am,
to fall where I stand,
or I’m weak for that kind of man;
one who looks helpless and brave.
But you turned into a coward,
I don’t care for the parts you saved.”

I never wanted a savior, I was never looking to be saved, but the weakness you gave to me, the lack of spine and honesty, they were not what you claimed to be. You could never seem to stand next to me with any kind of strength, not in front of the people who mattered to you, not when I needed you most – instead you lied about me and left me to fall when the world came close to closing in. I could never trust you after that, the lies and cowardice took it all away.

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