Everybody has a gimmick these days; postmodernism has established itself as the status quo, and the lines between genres and eras have begun to blur. As if it wasn’t hard enough to distinguish between “R&B” and “Soul,” we now have to contend with “Retro-Electro Post-Punk Indie Hip-Hop.” What can you do to distinguish yourself in a sea of pastiche if you’re a highly respected but relatively straightforward singer-songwriter? If you’re Aimee Mann (and don’t you wish you were?), you put out The Forgotten Arm, a concept album that tells a single story over the course of 12 songs.

You don’t really need to pay attention to the saga of Caroline and John if you don’t feel like it, though; you can simply appreciate The Forgotten Arm as a really good album. Good albums tend to feel like stories anyway, even when they don’t explicitly wind their way through a difficult relationship the way this one does. The early tracks set the general tone and lead up to an early peak that introduces conflict; then come both progress and frustration, hard work unrewarded; then a period of despair, the darkness before the dawn; then, well, the dawn; and finally, an epilogue or a chaser, depending on how you’re feeling about the whole thing by the end. That’s pretty much exactly the path that Mann follows here.