During a conversation about her minimal, lightly arranged new album, “Mental Illness,” singer and songwriter Aimee Mann pauses to apologize for the noise in her Los Feliz home.
Her husband, musician Michael Penn, is loading boxes in an adjoining room, and as the sound of tape being ripped from its roll echoes, Mann bemoans the hassle of home renovation.“We're such hoarders,” she says.
Filled with lyrics that highlight tormented characters, the 11 songs on “Mental Illness” are the most recent by an artist best known for her Grammy-nominated work on the score to Paul Thomas Anderson’s film “Magnolia.”On that score and across her acclaimed body of work, Mann’s empathy as a songwriter has resulted in her lyrics being painted as depressing.
You can be sad, but that's not the same thing.”This is Mann’s first solo record since “Charmer” in 2012, and it comes three years after her musical partnership with songwriter Ted Leo under the moniker the Both.
On their self-titled debut, their songs featured more sonic urgency and electric guitar, and were penned by a pair of kindred songwriters who labored over every line.“She helps me hold myself up to a higher standard,” Leo says on the phone from his home in Brooklyn.
Wearing jeans, a worn gray cashmere sweater and an orange scarf tied around her neck, she’s the epitome of Los Angeles casual cool.“Here’s why,” she finally concludes.
“Emotional honesty is uplifting — and it doesn't really matter what the emotion is.
The following year, Alexander Dean assumed management of the operation.