Best Albums of the 2010s – #9
Mental Illness – Aimee Mann (2017)
Aimee Mann did not have a very productive decade. She released Charmer in 2012, then a record paired up with alt-rocker Ted Leo in 2014, before wrapping things up with Mental Illness in 2017.
I can complain about the frequency, but not the content, especially Mental Illness, which ranks among the best releases of her career.
In one of those moments of sublime serendipity, the Random iTunes Fairy has offered up an Aimee Mann track exactly one week after the last random Aimee Mann track. You won’t hear me complaining.
In fact, back before Random Weekends, when I dedicated weekend posts to specific artists (The Beatles, Bob Dylan and Elvis Costello, among others), Aimee Mann was one of the artists I considered. At the time I was looking for artists with voluminous discographies and hers was a little on the lean side, but she easily could have carried several months’ worth of posts.
Hard to believe it’s already two years since Aimee Mann released her last album, the gorgeously melancholy Mental Illness. This was the sweetest, saddest Aimee Mann album an Aimee Mann fan could ever hope for.
Mann’s lyrics are always beautifully evocative even when they’re maddeningly inscrutable. Today’s SOTD, ‘Philly Sinks,’ appears to be about a man who abuses both alcohol and women, but that’s just a guess.
The best album of 2000 comes courtesy of Aimee Mann and her third solo album, Bachelor No. 2 (subtitled The Last Remains of the Dodo).
This pop rock masterpiece almost went unheard, as the record label didn’t hear a hit and held up its release. Mann bought back the rights and released it herself online, making it one of the first ever albums to find success with strictly digital distribution. Eventually she expanded the release to retail stores (how quaint that seems now) and the album went on to sell more than 200,000 copies.
After a couple of disappointments by favorite artists, here’s an album by another favorite that met my high expectations.
As it happens, just about all of my favorite albums this year have been by women, with Aimee Mann’s Mental Illness vying for the top spot. Of course, when she promised her “saddest, slowest, most acoustic” album yet, I was destined to love it.
OK, here’s the first matchup in Round One of Montauk Madness that hit me right in the gut: Aimee Mann vs. Ben Folds Five.
Why hurt me like this, oh musical gods, by pitting two of my all-time favorite artists against each other in what should be the easiest round?
I discovered both of these acts right around the same time, 20 years ago. I know that because I gave their latest CDs (Mann’s I’m With Stupid and BFF’s Whatever and Ever Amen) to my brother-in-law as a birthday present in 1997.
I’ve waited five long years since the last solo Aimee Mann album. She released an album with Ted Leo in 2014 under the moniker The Both, which was fine, but not the same. I’m stoked.
Even better, Mann told Rolling Stone that the new record, titled Mental Illness, promises to be her “saddest, slowest, most acoustic, if-they’re-all-waltzes-so-be-it-record.” That, my friends, is melancholy music to my ears.