The Forgotten Arm, Aimee Mann's noirish concept album from 2005, climaxed with the profanity-laced boozer "I Was Thinking I Could Clean Up for Christmas." Apparently, she did: The former 'Til Tuesday singer's new holiday album is a far more family-friendly listen. The mellow collection features two original songs and nine Festivus classics, including "The Christmas Song," which Mann performs with true inspiration. Then there's her take on "You're a Mean One, Mr. Grinch," where chiming guitars replace slinky horns, and Grant Lee Phillips reads dialogue from the book before joining Mann for a duet.
Husband Michael Penn and Fiona Apple producer Jon Brion co-wrote the breezy new "Christmastime," while even more celebrity friends stop by the low-key party, bringing their chilly banjo, sprightly pump organ, and delicate acoustic guitar. Sure, the new tunes don't measure up to "Clean Up," but inviting arrangements keep the old songs warm, making them perfect matches for Mann's hushed voice.