Song 144: Aimee Mann, “Labrador” (2012)

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It’s hard to write about Aimee Mann, because her songs have meant a lot to me over the years. Despite their bleakness, there’s an honesty about them that I find really encouraging. And her melodies are like little Paul McCartney records without the schmaltz. I find comfort in admittedly strange places, and you could argue that songs about addiction, heartbreak and loss are just that. I don’t know what to tell you, other than that Aimee Mann songs lull me into submission.

I had a hard time picking an Aimee Mann song to write about. Bachelor No. 2 is by far Mann’s best record, and it’s followed me around since its 2000 release. As a songwriter, it had a huge impact on me, especially lyrically; between Bachelor No. 2 and Elvis Costello’s catalog, I learned that wordplay can have genuine emotive qualities. The production by Jon Brion is nothing short of immaculate, and the role the album’s songs played in Magnolia is endlessly fascinating to me. The very different album The Forgotten Arm, as sparsely produced as Bachelor No. 2 is ornate, is her most underappreciated record. Did I mention that I like Aimee Mann?

Despite all that, when I sit down lately to listen to Aimee Mann, I listen to “Labrador.” I think it’s Mann’s best song in ages, especially its melody, which is so simple, but so effective. The term “Beatlesesque” gets thrown around a lot, but I think “Labrador” is a good song for it. There’s a kind of symmetry about it that just completely works. Oddly (because my favorite Mann songs never suffer in this area), I’m not a huge fan of the song’s lyrics, specifically that “Daisy”/”Maisie” pairing, which even the narrator would admit is a massive coincidence. But the rest of the song is so great that those complaints are quibbles.

Finally, we have to talk about this video. It’s not only ridiculous in its own right, but it’s basically a shot-for-shot remake of the enormously corny video for “Voices Carry,” a huge hit for Mann’s band ‘Til Tuesday in 1986. It also features Jon Hamm, in a fake mustache, saying the word “collambrotive.” If that doesn’t make you watch the video, we will never be friends.

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