The recent release of Aimee Mann’s first solo singles in five years, “Goose Snow Cone” and “Patient Zero”, have opened up the floodgates for fond memories of when I first became aware of her music, nearly twenty-years-ago. Like a lot of people, I was introduced to her via film soundtrack, but it wasn’t with the usual avenue of Paul Thomas Anderson’s Magnolia. It was the spring of 1999, several months before the aforementioned film would even see an official release. At the age of 15, I was still forming some sort of taste in the arts in general, not knowing where I would land. I went to the theater to see Cruel Intentions, a decision that at the time was solely based on my Sarah Michelle Gellar obsession via-Buffy, and an adoration of the Reese Witherspoon-starred film, Pleasantville. I ended up enjoying the movie quite a lot at the time, and this was largely influenced by how hard some of the songs on the soundtrack hit me, specifically Placebo’s “Every You Every Me”, Blur’s “Colorblind”, and Mann’s “You Could Make A Killing”.
It was during this same time frame that I discovered my new favorite haven, a local record store called Luna Music. I immediately devoured everything in Mann’s catalog that existed at that point, all the way back to her time with ‘Til Tuesday. Naturally, I initially gravitated toward the album that included “You Could Make A Killing”, 1996’s I’m with Stupid. That particular release was arguably the real catalyst for my head-first nosedive into the appreciation of Mann’s songwriting, and looking back years later I would consider it the first time she put together an almost perfect pop record. I was starving for more, and my radar was set to high alert from that point on. Little did I know, her best work was approaching imminently.
“Now that I’ve met you, would you object to never seeing each other again?”
Had Paul Thomas Anderson never heard this opening line to Mann’s song, “Deathly”, it’s possible that we never would have seen his masterwork, Magnolia, in the shape it ultimately took, or maybe at all. This is how incredibly inspiring Mann’s songwriting was to Anderson during the inception stage of making the film, and that beacon of light carried him throughout the rest of the process. Before the release of the film, Mann was still arguably most known for the single “Voices Carry” by her previous band, ‘Til Tuesday. That was all about to change with an explosion. I’ll never forget sitting in the back row of the cinema – on three separate occasions – wide-eyed and in awe of every single frame that was presented in front of me. Embedded in a great deal of this was Mann’s music, most iconically with the numbers “Save Me” and “Wise Up”. Still, what stuck with me the most was the lingering effect of “Deathly”, and imagining how immersed PTA must have been with it for so long. This would end up being the backbone of her next album, which came out just a few weeks after Magnolia.
Bachelor No. 2 (or, the last remains of the dodo) is not only one of the key records in the official turning point for my taste in music as I approached the Sweet Sixteen, but it would continue to endure throughout key moments in the rest of my high school days, and well beyond. Although she would go on to make more impressive records shortly after, Bachelor No. 2 is the defining Aimee Mann record. I can count on more than two hands the amount of sleepless nights I spent as a teenager with only “How Am I Different”, “Red Vines”, and “Ghost World” on repeat as company. There was literally nothing else needed sometimes. Long night drives with “Nothing is Good Enough” and “The Fall of the World’s Own Optimist” were frequent. Then, again, there’s “Deathly”; forever making its imprint and coming back insistently like a boomerang.
“Cause I’m just a problem for you to solve and watch dissolve in the heat of your charm”
Reaching back and revisiting this record always serves as a kind reminder that whenever Mann graces us with another set of songs, we should be thankful. Very much looking forward to hearing Mental Illness.