One More Drifter in the Snow

by: Aimee Mann

There's not much in Aimee Mann's past that would suggest that she would record a holiday album. Ever since launching a solo career in 1993 with Whatever, she's steadily built a reputation as a consummate singer/songwriter, renowned for her intelligent craft, which perhaps peaked around the turn of the century when she provided songs for Paul Thomas Anderson's third film, Magnolia, which led to her excellent third album, Bachelor No. 2. Since that project, Mann's work remained at a typically high level, but her subsequent albums -- 2002's Lost in Space and 2005's The Forgotten Arm -- were a touch too studied and deliberate, certainly not the kinds of records that would point the way toward a holiday excursion like 2006's One More Drifter in the Snow. Not that this Christmas album is far removed from the music Mann has made over the past decade: it's hushed and intimate, filled with antique keyboards that occasionally exude a mildly carnivalesque vibe, so it does feel of a piece with Mann's last few albums, yet the tone is different. Of course, part of the change in tone is that this is a holiday album, and Mann clearly intends for One More Drifter in the Snow to be played alongside classic '50s Christmas albums from Frank Sinatra and Dean Martin. This album has a similarly appealing, warm and lazy, jazzy vibe -- a sound that evokes the holiday season for millions of listeners, and Mann should be commended not only for nailing that sound, but writing an original called "Calling on Mary" that fits comfortably next to "I'll Be Home for Christmas" and "Winter Wonderland" (her husband Michael Penn's "Christmastime" also fits nicely). So, the album feels right, but even better for Mann fans -- especially those skeptical about a Christmas record -- One More Drifter in the Snow finds the singer/songwriter in top form as a performer, turning in the loosest, friendliest recording she's made in years. There's little of the self-consciousness that hampered Lost in Space and The Forgotten Arm; she sounds as if she's having fun making this music, which not only makes for a good Christmas record, but bodes well for her next proper pop album. ~ Stephen Thomas Erlewine

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