God, I love Aimee Mann. She is the big sister I always wanted. I’d have knocked on her door while she was practicing guitar to bug her. To impress her. She would be annoyed but patient and understanding. She would listen to my questions. She has the answers. I know it.
Now, she is answering questions I haven’t even asked yet.
As big a fan as I am, I was beginning to worry Mann peaked on her efforts for the soundtrack to Magnolia and the complimentary, Bachelor #2. But Mental Illness is the best thing Mann has ever done. It’s the most mature, cohesive thematic album of a career full of such efforts. It excels in both in craft and content. She is one of those artists that I’m feeling good about growing old with. I trust her more than ever to help me search myself. She’s not a sad old punk rocker with grey liberty spikes. She is a keen and insightful woman of such presence and wisdom you feel obliged to hear her out and learn her lessons. Her songs give the listener a dignity all their own.
On “ Goose Snow Cone,” Mann’s wordplay breaks the ice. “Every look is a truce, and its written in stone.” And “Even birds of a feather find it hard to fly.” Mann lets us know its ok to struggle. It’s really hard to do anything well everyday. With anyone or anything. Especially, in love. Noting outside observers of marital strife, “Goose Snow Cone” softens the blow of the songs to come by being passively melancholy. It is as a relationship in a long dry stretch might feel. Comfortably sad.
“Stuck in the Past” is self explanatory, and delightful. “A living memory of vapor,” is one of the albums best lines. Mann is a sad Don Rickles. She is queen of the poetic and heartbreaking one liner. The best lines are concise little daggers that are easy to miss and fun to discover.
“Patient Zero”, the single and standout track is a sing-a-long for a broken heart healing. Mann sings, “ Life is good, you look around and think I’m in the right neighborhood, but honey you just moved in, life is grand, wouldn’t you like it to go as planned?”
Mental Illness is a frontrunner for album of the year at this point. It hit me at the right place and right time. Like medicine, it felt prescribed for what ails me. My own struggles with mental illness always have me searching for art that connects me to others. There is nothing better than knowing you don’t have to go it alone. Do yourself a favor; let Aimee take you along too. She’s really good at making you feel part of something bigger.