Tuesday, October 27, 2009


Aimee Mann is one of my favorite artists of
all time. And, one of the greatest artists of the past decade, if not the best. Not just because of her incredible albums, but also for the way she's conducted herself and her career. She's practically created her own alternate universe where she can exist without having to deal with the music industry. She's certainly earned that right.
A little background. In the '80s, it would be hard to predict how her career would unfold. She was the singer and bassist for a "new wave" band called 'Til Tuesday who had a huge hit with "Voices Carry." But they seemed destined for "one-hit wonder" status. They split up, and Aimee apparently had a hard time getting away from her label to sign with another label to launch her solo career.
In the '90s, she struggled with label problems, which were considerable. She put out two genius albums, 1993's Whatever and 1995's I'm With Stupid on Imago and Geffen, neither of whom knew what to do with them. They are great records and you should check them out.
When Aimee was working on her next album, her label Geffen was being folded into Interscope, who were enthralled with Limp Bizkit and Eminem... not the best enviornment for Aimee's music. They didn't like the album, or didn't get it, and she bought the masters back from them. Meanwhile, the great film director Paul Thomas Anderson, who had worked with Aimee's husband Michael Penn on Boogie Nights, started writing a screenplay around a lyric from one of her Aimee's new songs, "Deathly." That became the film Magnolia, and the soundtrack was mostly made of songs that Aimee was working on at that point. The film and the soundtrack both came out in December of 1999.
Aimee's music got more attention from its role in Magnolia than it had ever had before. Other songs from her late'90s sessions (and some songs from Magnolia) became the independently released Bachelor No. 2. Possibly my favorite album of the '00s. Interscope didn't think that it had commercial appeal, but it went on to sell more than 200,000 copies without major distribution, and it established Aimee as a career touring artist. She can play any song from Magnolia/Bachelor No. 2 and people know all the words.
She followed it up with Lost In Space in 2002, another classic, and on her own label, United Artists. She seemed to tour non-stop for the album for about two years - including some joint touring with Michael Penn. Those shows were so awesome: they played as one band, backing each other up. And the funny thing was, they hired comedian Patton Oswald to open the shows, but also to provide in-between song banter, ostensibly because they aren't funny. The joke is, both Mann and Penn are hilarious anyway (albeit in a drier way than Oswald).
Two more solid albums, 2005's The Forgotten Arm, and 2008's Smilers add up to a great decade. Plus, she started doing these really cool Christmas tours (although this year she's apparently only playing Largo in L.A.) to go along with her holiday album One More Drifter In The Snow. I don't think anyone out there today writes better songs, and no one has more cred (not that that matters, but I just have so much respect for the woman). I don't know if she's working on a new album - I heard she might be doing some kind of screenplay for The Forgotten Arm - but whatever she does, it is worth paying attention to. She's not the type to take requests, but I'd love to see her work with Jon Brion again (he produced Magnolia and Bachelor No. 2). I almost hesitate to write that last sentence - I kind of imagine Ms. Mann reading this and coming up with some dry, searing retort. But, whatever. Hey, if you've read this far, and don't have her albums, pick up Bachelor No. 2 and Lost In Space, you'll thank me.

More Best Of The '00s: Bob Dylan, Willie Nelson

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