Album review: AIMEE MANN – Mental Illness

AIMEE MANN - Mental Illness

SuperEgo/Membran [Release date 31.03.17]

Not exactly an uplifting title for an album?  But then Aimee Mann’s never exactly been what you might call a happy singer, or a “heaven is a place on earth” composer.  No, Aimee was born looking at life though the other end of the telescope.

After the more pop orientated Charmer (2012), Mental Illness finds Mann back to her acoustic, observational, and depressing best.  Deliberately stripped back, and downbeat, support is limited to acoustic guitars, piano, harmonium, a string quartet and an unobtrusive and barely used rhythm section.  It’s what suits Mann best and lyrical content aside – songs of bi-polarity, sociopaths, and the just plain crazy – Mental Illness is a very beautiful record.

Despite indulging her bleaker side, and setting out to write the saddest, slowest, most acoustic record she could, Mental Illness is musically inspired by the ‘easy listening’ sounds of the ’70′s, the sparse arrangements supplemented by vocal ‘ooh’s’ aplenty.  Sonically, it’s irresistible.

One smart cookie, Mann’s wicked sense of humour is laced through the songs that make up Mental Illness which, despite their melancholic lyrical content, are indelibly catchy and must be regarded as one of her most consistent (and perhaps best) piece of work to date.  *****

Review by Pete Whalley

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