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Album Review | Rock

The Both, ‘The Both’

Christian Lantry

When artists collaborate, they sometimes use the opportunity to explore different sonic personas. For the Both, critically adored singer-songwriters Aimee Mann and Ted Leo choose to give themselves makeovers, gussying up each other’s sounds with complementary colors.

The duo’s self-titled debut’s greatest strength is the pair’s hand-in-glove harmonies. Coupled with Mann’s gift for a pop melody and Leo’s penchant for spiky, urgent guitars, the end result is a best-of-both-worlds situation.

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Trading off lead vocals and entwining their voices, Mann’s mesmerizing, chalky murmur gives a warmly blurry edge to Leo, while his brasher sensibility helps rough up her style. Any distance that existed as the two musicians separately worked on the songs — all co-written by Mann and Leo — is bridged by the essential rightness of their shared sound.

Together on tunes like the boppy “Milwaukee,” the swinging “Pay for It,” and the ultra-catchy “You Can’t Help Me Now” they evoke several of their, no doubt shared, influences, including the Beatles and previous Mann collaborators Elvis Costello and Glenn Tilbrook of Squeeze.

Each tune bears a hallmark of each songwriter, but fans of both should cheer how the Both come together. (Out Tuesday)

ESSENTIAL “Pay for It”

The Both plays at the Paradise Rock Club April 25.

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