One of the many artists to have dropped out of the Berklee College of Music in Boston, Aimee Mann was the bass player in new wave band ’Til Tuesday in the eighties. Since leaving the band, the singer of Voices Carry has had a long and undulating solo career that has seen he garner critical acclaim along with some commercial success with her songs for the film Magnolia.
Mann is an unashamed lover of boxing, but she may also have an interest in the inner battles people engage every day with her ninth album being called Mental Illness. While there are moments of desperation and misery throughout the album, the inspiration can be a little on the obtuse side. This is certainly the case with Goose Snow Cone which was inspired by a photo of a friends cat.
In the past Mann has built her reputation around robust melodies and punchy lyrics, but Mental Illness is a totally different beast. No longer concerned with making records solely for the people that buy them, this is as honest and true a record as Mann has made in some time. The whole album is downbeat with a reliance on strings, acoustic guitars and percussion, yet Mann is able to weave in set of tunes that deliver a memorable chorus along the way.
There is an art in highlighting life’s disappointments without coming across as dour and Mann pulls this off with ease. You Never Loved Me is matter of fact and Lies Of Summer is almost playful in its delivery. The music on Mental Illness is pretty for the most part but that doesn’t make for a feel good listen. Mann doesn’t shy away from the reality of day to day life, yet even when delivering tunes like Knock It Off she able to do so with a degree of warmth.
When speaking about Mental Illness, Mann has described it as her saddest, slowest and most acoustic album to date. She isn’t wrong. It just happens to be one of her best.