Aimee Mann The Sombre One

Aimee Mann The Sombre One
"There's nothing to say about ‘I'm happy,'" Aimee Mann says flatly, on the phone from the studio. "Good for you, but I can't come up with an entire song that explores that concept. I can't maintain an interest in that for four minutes." Since her days in late ‘80s new wave group Til Tuesday, but particularly over four solo albums, Aimee Mann has spoken through the voiceless, the disenchanted, the terminally fucked up.

On her latest album, Lost In Space, addiction and powerlessness are the running themes, as she lays her songwriter's hand on gamblers, drug addicts and her old familiar neighbours, the simply lovelorn. "They're all pretty dark," Mann says of these new songs, "but they're dark in a certain way. It felt like they were topics that really made sense together." Mann was dropped from Geffen Records after delivering her last record, 2000's Bachelor # 2, ironically at the same time that several of her songs were included in director Paul Thomas Anderson's film Magnolia and Mann was nominated for an Academy Award — her highest profile in years. Finally freed from the constraints of major label expectations, Mann is fully giving in to the depths of despair, thankful to not have the "there's no single" fight ever again. "I felt freer to actually group all of these songs together and to eliminate the songs that I felt didn't fit into the group, even though they might be considered a single." Having eventually released Bachelor #2 on her own, Lost In Space is her first album away from the middle managers droning "there's no single" at every meeting. "It's sort of like a dog that gets beaten when it's younger, and it always flinches when anyone comes near it," Mann says. "I really felt that negative, cringing sense of anticipation, so much so that I could hardly write or sing. I knew the first and only thing I would ever hear was ‘Go back to the studio and cough up a single somehow.' I knew that regardless of my best efforts, I was going to hear that, so it didn't matter what I did — it was a foregone conclusion that it would be a disappointment to the powers that be, and it kind of takes all the life out of you."

On her own, Mann simply chose the ten songs that made the most sense together — a beautiful and haunting exploration of weakness, but also hope. And hearing her talk with affection about these characters, it's clear why she and P.T. Anderson are friends — her songs and his films are populated by the same sad bunch. "Everybody I know is completely, totally dysfunctional. I think most people are. I read a lot of books about psychology, dysfunction, alcoholism. The notion that people, as fucked up as they are, they can get better — it's all very interesting. People write about different things; this is what I write about."