The Both is the name for the duo formed by the veteran singer-songwriters Aimee Mann and Ted Leo. The Both is also the name of their debut album. The two began performing together in 2012, when Ted Leo was Mann’s opening act. Mann began joining Leo onstage during his set. They liked the sound their voices made together, and started collaborating. Fresh Air rock critic Ken Tucker has a review of The Both:
As separate acts, Ted Leo is generally considered a punk-influenced indie musician for the work he’s done with his band the Pharmacists, and Aimee Mann as a sensitive singer-songwriter ever since she left the pop star life with the group ‘Til Tuesday in the 1980s. But of course both of these musicians are more than their genre categories. What their work as The Both suggests is that together they’ve found common ground in confidently precise, propulsive melodies and lyrics that twist with oblique cleverness.
“Milwaukee” is one of the first songs Mann and Leo collaborated on in gradually hatching this plan to perform and record together as The Both. They bring out the best in each other musically: Leo gives Mann zip and vigor; she gives him poetry and hard-headedness. Sometimes one of them takes the lead vocal, at other times they trade off lines and harmonize throughout.
In interviews, Aimee Mann has said working with Ted Leo has made her feel as though she’s in a rock band for the first time, which must make her old bandmates in ‘Til Tuesday feel a tad dismayed. But if anything, The Both includes some of the most Aimee Mannish of Aimee Mann songs, the way her best singing captures an urgent longing and pessimism that is redeemed by a prickly self-awareness.
The Both works so well as an album because its songs cohere as the documentation of the ways a new creative partnership revitalizes the familiar habits, tics, tricks, and talents of the collaborators. It sets their individual talents in a new context that compels the listener to form a new appreciation for these musicians. They may begin the album singing about a gamble that didn’t pay off, but their own musical collusion really has.
Photo cred Christian Lantry/Super Ego Records