As downcast singer-songwriters go, Aimee Mann's among the more upbeat. The former 'Til Tuesday front woman's lyrics nearly always describe romantic disappointment, but she's apt to dress an unstinting emotional reflection in an exuberant tune with a tricky, catchy arrangement. "Maybe there's room for compromise," she sang while bounding about the Chestnut Cabaret's stage Friday night, as guitars careened and cymbals crashed behind her. "But signs that I get say otherwise."
The 32-year-old Mann's mature songs haven't yet found the audience they deserve; she's still best known as the tall blond woman with the teased hair who sang the mid-'80s hits "Voices Carry" and "Coming Up Close." Friday, she did reinvented, toughened-up takes on both of those, but stayed focused on the finely crafted songs on the underheard Whatever (Imago), her solo debut and one of the year's most durable pop albums.