• U.S.

I Sing, Therefore I Am

3 minute read
Benjamin Nugent and Josh Tyrangiel

The only musician working today who could start an advice column if she tired of writing in rhyme may be AIMEE MANN. Her songs often take the perspective of an older sister talking a listener through a breakup. “This is how it goes: You’ll get angry at yourself/And think you can think of something else,” she sings on her new album, Lost in Space. Her music is rock at its most comforting, with gently swinging rhythms and mournful guitar lines. Sometimes only a hint of distortion steers it clear of soft-rock territory. The words ultimately, however, are not soft but the tough caveats of an ex-romantic. Her message is one rarely heard in rock: Sometimes you just have to lower your expectations. Dear Aimee, How come there aren’t more songwriters like you? Yours, Quite Impressed. –By Benjamin Nugent

Guess what? on his 16th album, October Road, JAMES TAYLOR strums the ol’ guitar and sings some sweet words. If you own more than three of Taylor’s previous 15 records, you’ll like this one too. But Road doesn’t have much to offer the nonbeliever. Taylor has never created a lot of musical tension, but his best work has at least oozed melody. Here even the standout tracks–September Grass, My Traveling Star–feel like tangents, good ideas expressed with acoustic ease but without choruses to tie them up. The best that can be said–and it’s neither small praise nor breaking news–is that Taylor is sincere. “I worry about my actions, I think about the damage I do,” he sings on Carry Me on My Way. But Road lacks the force to do much damage at all. –By Josh Tyrangiel

It’s hard to picture samuel beckett rocking out, but once you clear that mental hurdle, it’s easy to imagine Beckett grooving to DAVID BAERWALD. From his days as half of the ’80s pop duo David + David to his gig co-writing Sheryl Crow’s Tuesday Night Music Club, Baerwald has written about the misery of life and the imperative to go on. On Here Comes the New Folk Underground, his first album in 10 years, Baerwald remains the prince of rain, singing “Love is eternal as long as it lasts/ Good times come, then they pass.” The lyrical dourness is leavened by a great shock of musical energy. Baerwald moves among roots, gospel, pop, rock and even cabaret songs with such ease that you might believe he’s actually–gasp!–enjoying himself. –J.T.

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