Aimee Mann

@#%&*! Smilers

Indie-electronic jazz riffs speckled with Mann’s trademark emotive melodies are what set Smilers apart from her previous six solo albums. Spacey, grooving keyboard licks buttress the verses on “Great Beyond” and “Medicine Wheel,” while budding big-band instrumentation invigorates “Borrowing Time.” And “Ballantines,” a collaboration with San Fran’s Sean Hayes, is the songstress’s freshest tune in years, featuring crooning vocals and jaunty ragtime piano, with horn phrases reminiscent of Hayes’ Flowering Spade. But Mann only flirts with these genre-stretching flourishes, using them to decorate rather than permeate the disc’s layered melodies and understated, tragic narratives. At its core, Smilers is another installment of Mann’s tidy alt-rock. But, you know, that’s not such a terrible thing.