In the middle of Aimee Mann's set at Union Transfer on Friday night, a single piece of confetti dislodged itself from the rafters and floated down in front of her, lazily spinning in the stage lights. "Quite a party," she quipped.
Mann's set, which dwelled heavily on her new album, Charmer, was full of frustrated hopes and fizzled dreams, in keeping with a career that, she readily acknowledges, is not long on upbeat emotions. During an unscheduled pause occasioned by an onstage computer crash, she improvised a self-parodic song about a sad kitten lost in the rain.
The ease with which Mann sent up her own depressive tendencies reflects the wry wit that keeps her songs from sinking into the muck. (She also made a memorable appearance on the recent season of Portlandia, playing a version of herself who has to clean houses to make ends meet.)