Directed by Puloma Basu & Rob Hatch-Miller. From Queens of the Summer Hotel, out November 5 on SuperEgo.
Aimee Mann’s Mental Illness was one of the best albums of 2017, and it appears she’s been sticking to its general theme since then. She started working on this new batch of songs in 2018 for a stage adaptation of the book Girl, Interrupted, and although that never happened, she got an album’s worth of material out of the project.
I never read the book but I saw the Winona Ryder movie and I remember liking it. Can’t remember much about it other than Angelina Jolie’s breakthrough role as a nymphomaniac or chronic masturbator or whatever they locked women up for in the sixties. Looking at the track listing of Queens of the Summer Hotel, I can’t find any titles that jog my memory but that’s okay.
“Suicide Is Murder” is a piano ballad with lyrics that treat a serious subject in a somewhat flippant manner.
Motive’s a must
Shame and self-loathing a plus
Tickets for under the bus.
The bridge, on the other hand, contains the kicker.
But beware ’cause anyone who knew you
Will be cursed and part of them will also die
There’s no end to the asking of the question: Why?
Mann says, “I started to write this song because I’ve known people who committed suicide and friends who’ve had loved ones die from suicide. I think the phrase ‘suicide is murder’ took on a meaning for me as it’s the worst thing to have to deal with in the aftermath. It’s just terrible. Because every person who knows the person who committed suicide will blame themselves in some way for not noticing or stepping in or doing something. They’ll till the end of their days, say, ‘was there something I could have done?’”
Aimee Mann is so stinkin’ good it’s ridiculous. Her new album, Mental Illness, has provided great comfort to me in these awful, awful times. Her Tiny Desk Concert features a stripped down run through of four songs from it: “Rollercoasters,” “You Never Loved Me,” “Goose Snow Cone,” and “Patient Zero.”
Aimee Mann has been quietly releasing sad and beautiful music for this entire millennium, since (at least) Bachelor No. 2 in 2000. We should all be paying way more attention to her. All of her songs have at least one line that punches you in the gut. For me, in “Goose Snow Cone” the chorus “Gotta keep it together when your friends come by / Always checking the weather but they wanna know why” is the one that gets me.
“I wrote “Goose Snow Cone” when I was on tour in Ireland, on a cold and snowy day. I was feeling very homesick when I saw a picture on Instagram of a cat I know named Goose. Her fluffy white face was looking up at the camera in a very plaintive way, like a little snowball, and I started singing a little song about her that turned into a song about loneliness. I intended to change the lyrics but could never find a phrase to replace the one I started with. When it came time to make a video, I knew the original Goose had to be in it. Her owners are my friends Rob and Puloma who coincidentally produce and direct videos. One of my cats had recently gone through a long illness and I was thinking about that when I came up with the idea for the video, and I knew Puloma had to star in it, as she has a very lovely and expressive face. The vet in the video is my actual vet and he’s a great guy. It was not easy wrangling Goose but the magic of editing makes it all work!” – Aimee Mann
From Mental Illness, out March 31 on SuperEgo Records. Stream it via NPR and then buy it.
The reality of the music business being a business is something that people, for reasons that are not entirely clear, like to avoid thinking about. To be sure, there is resistance to the record companies that have been manifest by the various forms of file-swapping, resistance that has led to a Borg-like response: Napster was assimilated; now there is discussion even within the U.S. legislature about the destruction of hard drives owned by those individuals who would dare continue exchanging music in a way that is unauthorized. Get ready for the photon torpedoes. The lack of what is perceived as authorization, of course, is one that is predicated on the belief of the record companies with regard to their “ownership’ of music. (This point of view, it should be noted, is not entirely unique to the record companies: the last time you installed any software from Redmond on your computer, you probably noted that you had to agree to what fundamentally amounts to the fact that although you “bought” the product—that is, exchanged money for product—you are really just borrowing the software.) But when we leave the realm of file swapping, there seems to be a blithe blind eye toward the fact that success is as much a matter of calculated stratagems as it is of talent. Rock and roll can change our lives, we think, because rock and roll is something that smacks of some sort of purity, of an almost religious state of being. We look at performers as being able to touch something in us, and we certainly won’t let anyone in who is tainted with filthy lucre. Or so we think. Because unless there’s an accountant behind them, and a marketeer in front of the accountant, we’re unlikely to see or hear them.
The great thing about independent releases from dedicated, obsessive artists is the attention to detail. From the fantastic comic book artwork to the seamless production, Lost in Space is a pleasure for Aimee Mann fans used to being treated right.
Mann has attained that most difficult of musical attributes: she’s established a sound that is immediately identifiable as her own without rehashing melodies or themes to the point of self-parody. Like the simplicity, sadness and depth that made a George Harrison solo undeniably his, Mann has touched upon a musical style that conjures up her name upon first listen.
Subtle keyboard and slide guitar touches fill out the sound that dances around Mann’s never ending melodies. Fans of Bachelor #2 and the Magnolia Soundtrack will find plenty to explore in Lost in Space. Mann may not necessarily be breaking new musical ground on this album but she’s perfecting a sound that is damn near impossible to forget and that is worth getting lost for.