album reviews

Aimee Mann
One More Drifter in the Snow
SuperEgo Records (2006)

It seems so unlikely that the woman whose gloomy lyrics inspired the 1999 Paul Thomas Anderson film "Magnolia" would release an album of holiday tunes, but that's precisely the subject of Aimee Mann's latest, "One More Drifter in the Snow." Thankfully, Mann's selections steer clear of cheery, "Jingle Bells"-esque carols; instead, she turns to more somber numbers that better complement her dry, plaintive voice.

Her take on "I'll Be Home for Christmas" captures the song's wistful longing, as her voice drips with sorrow on the song's closing "if only in my dreams." Similarly, the darker tone of "God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen" meshes perfectly with Mann's detached delivery, while on a duet with Grant Lee Phillips, Mann captures the wry humor of the Dr. Seuss classic "You're a Mean One, Mr. Grinch."

Elsewhere, Mann takes on more straightforward pieces, giving a jazzy flair to "Winter Wonderland" and "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas." There are two notable originals on this collection: "Christmastime," written by Mann's husband, Michael Penn, conveys the dreamy blur of the holiday season, while Mann's lulling ballad "Calling on Mary" delivers the bittersweetness at which she has always excelled.

-- Catherine P. Lewis

.: Originally published: The Washington Post: 15 December 2006, Page WE06
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