After 2014’s somewhat uncomfortable album with Ted Leo, Aimee Mann is back doing what she does best – singing melancholic songs of love and loss.
Like Glen Campbell, she processes an essentially unadorned, vanilla voice that’s still capable of conveying yearning tracts of emotion, and while Mental Illness doesn’t stray too far from the beaten path, it does offer something new for seasoned Mann watchers.
Gone are the aching electric solos that used to dovetail her voice so beautifully, discarded for a largely acoustic set-up. The drums are brushed, there’s plenty of piano, and long-time producer Paul Bryant has ushered in an occasionally Beatles-ish string section.
Philly Sinks is a woozy waltz, Patient Zero a sad, enchanting highlight, and Mann still has a way of making potentially clunky rhymes seem effortlessly natural, as the smooth coupling of ‘smoke machine’ and ‘dopamine’ on the lovely Good For Me shows.