Bachelor No. 2 is the album that, if Interscope had its way, wouldn't have been released at all. Instead, Aimee Mann bought the rights back and released it on her own through her website – a gutsy move in 2000, but it paid off for Mann and her fans.
Most of Mann's albums make me unreasonably happy, but Bachelor No. 2 is wall-to-wall awesome. Let's start with the opening track, "How am I Different?" It's a perfect album opener, starting just with acoustic guitar, light drums, piano, and Mann's voice. After a couple of verses, the music swells and carries you away. I love everything about this song, the melody, the bluesy guitar, Mann's voice, and the lyrics. "Just one queston before I pack, when you fuck it up later, do I get my money back?"
And then there's "Red Vines," which – if the universe were just and the music industry didn't suck – should by all rights have been a chart-topping single. The chorus to this is just irresistible. If you're not struck with an urge to sing along, you may want to check to be sure you still have a pulse. I also love the fade at the end that closes with a piano tinkling out the melody one final time.
"The Fall of the World's Own Optimist" is co-written by Elvis Costello. There's a great rise and fall rhythm to this one, and it's easy to get sucked in and carried along with the tide.
"Deathly" is usually on the bill for Mann's live shows, and it never ever fails to bring the house down. It starts off deceptively sparse, propelled by Mann's voice, acoustic guitar, and percussion. It picks up steam until about mid-way through the song where it's met with a soaring guitar bridge. This isn't just one of my favorite songs by Mann, it's one of my favorite songs, period.
Of course, there's not a bad song on the album. "Driving Sideways," "Susan," "Calling it Quits" are all outstanding catchy as hell pop masterpieces. "It Takes All Kinds," is a lazy, pretty little tune.
You'll notice a consistent theme of doomed romance on Bachelor No. 2, and on Mann's albums in general. But damned if she doesn't make it sound good. "You Do" is a slight change of pace, with Mann viewing the wreckage from the vantage point of a friend seeing someone in a doomed relationship.
Not to sound repetitive, but there's nothing about this album I don't love. The vocals are great, the arrangements are fantastic, and the musicians on the album are all amazing. The album is more than 15 years old now, but it could have been recorded yesterday. There's nothing dated about it at all.
At this point, I've lost track of how many times I've seen Aimee Mann live. The first time was in the early 90s at Pointfest at Riverpoint Ampitheatre in St. Louis. Then several times in Denver and Boulder, once at Red Rocks, once at the Portland Zoo, in Boston with the Boston Pops, and again in St. Louis at the Pageant. Every single show was fantastic.