"Bachelor No. 2" by Aimee Mann (2000)
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The story behind this album could certainly serve as the ideal cautionary tale for anyone planning on trying to make it in show biz. The story is long, suffice to say, that having it all--looks, industry connections, an overabundance of talent and even a big hit song--guarantee nothing. The fact that this very impressive piece of work has even seen the light of day was due to a fortuitous bit of serendipity--and had nothing to do with an industry that gives half a crap about anything beyond commerce.
Mann's husband, Michael Penn, gave a cassette with a few of these songs to director Thomas Anderson during the filming of Boogie Nights, and he was so taken with the songs that he actually wrote a good bit of the script for Magnolia based upon them. Fast forward, Mann scores the film, scores an Oscar nomination, and spurns the army of suits who came to court, in favor of releasing this album on her own record label--initially over the internet and now in your local record store--hopefully.
Mann's gift for expressing those mercurial truisms that we all sort of know but couldn't put into words, is stunning. Especially when she takes them and turns a clever phrase that rhymes. Her melodies often recall classic 60's sensibilities (Bacharach, Jimmy Webb) the kind of pop smarts that made a star out of Dionne Warwick years before she became our "psychic sidekick." Aimee's voice is a limited instrument, a bit thin and strained at stretches, but after listening to the warbling vocal gymnastics by the likes of Christina Aguilera and Mariah Carey, itÕ's refreshing to hear someone hold a damn note for a few seconds.
Three of the songs here are also on the Magnolia soundtrack, and it's hard to pick a favorite, maybe "Red Vines and Cigarettes." or "Just Like Anyone," which she wrote about the death of her friend Jeff Buckley. You'd definitely file this one under adult contemporary, and the tone of the songs is easy on the ear throughout. I recommend following along with the liner notes--it's excellent reading.
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