Aimee Mann - Mental Illness
This record has a problem and it begins and ends with the title. Mental Illness feels to on the nose and to limiting for a record this lush and rich sounding. The second the album begins Aimee's voice flows in, flooding all the space and letting you into her quiet little world of living in her head. The title of course makes perfect sense, especially for the type of music Mann makes, but luckily the songs make up for any way of putting them into a box. Mann's intent is so clear in her songs, she doesn't mince words or swim in metaphor and it is that plain language that makes her so accessible. Her songs have edge but not in the normal way. She doesn't really scream, doesn't get all that graphic but she is able to show a mirror to yourself like very few artists are able to. She is able to inhabit her subject for that song and make you feel like she is telling her own story, and she does this almost every time. She has often been blasted for being overly slow and down, which she absolutely leans into on this record. You won't find much more than an acoustic with a few flourishes here and there, but that is what is so great about this record is that it doesn't need all that. In a way however Mann doesn't negate the fact that there is more music in the world, in fact she more takes the role of the elder stateswoman extolling wisdom to those about to take the path she once did. She also has this really great ability to blend in Folk, Country and Americana without you even noticing giving her this sound that is so distinctly her own.
If you are looking for something upbeat however this is not the album for you. Mann embodies so much sadness on this record it's hard to really imagine. She takes zero breaks from getting into it, which can make the album feel super heavy at times. But the experience is still incredibly satisfying, hold your hand to your chest and hum along kind of stuff. She even allows the album to descend into a bit of despair by the end where the first track left you with a little bit of hope. There are a few albums that make you so happy to be feeling sad and this very much is one of them. There may be tears streaming down your face but who gives a shit if it is real. It is a real dick move to say that it takes a certain amount of adultness to enjoy Mann or even music with this kind of emotional depth, but as you get older you begin to realize just how important albums like this are at time. Beautiful, sad, inspiring and hopeful Mental Illness may have a terrible title but the music within is so very far from it.
8.7 out of 10