Copyright 2000 The Atlanta Constitution  
The Atlanta Journal and Constitution

January 13, 2000, Thursday, Home Edition

SECTION: Features; Pg. 7D

LENGTH: 328 words

HEADLINE: ON MUSIC: Mann's melancholia blooms on 'Magnolia';
Weekend at Home

BYLINE: Doug Hamilton, Staff


Aimee Mann and others. Reprise.
13 tracks.
Grade: A-.

Aimee Mann has mastered the art of sounding fragile. Reaching back to " Voices Carry," her 1985 hit with 'Til Tuesday, the singer-songwriter's quavery, pitch-challenged voice and pain-soaked lyrics have projected a wounded, world-weary image. There are hordes of angsty artists out there, but few can nail low self-esteem as Mann does, with lines such as "Now that I've met you, would you object to never seeing each other again?"

Writer-director Paul Thomas Anderson was so taken with that line --- from Mann's melancholy ballad "Deathly" --- that he claims he constructed his new movie "Magnolia" around it. A key character in the sprawling drama utters a variation on the line, and Mann's songs flutter throughout the movie, even, in one odd scene, landing on the lips of all the main characters.

If Mann's songs help drive "Magnolia," they also stand on their own in this collection. Her nine cuts, including a searingly beautiful cover of Harry Nilsson's "One," unfold with the delicate grace of the title blossom. In the past, Mann's tentative delivery has bordered on wan, but she's in full flower here, aided by such hot-shot producers as Jon Brion and Brendan O'Brien.

If only Anderson, who compiled the soundtrack, had stuck with Mann all the way through. The inclusion of two old chestnuts by Supertramp and a disco trifle by Gabrielle breaks the mood. If you want a pure slice of Mann's heartbreaking anguish, stop the CD after the ninth track. If you want Supertramp, buy "Breakfast in America."

Access code: 150
You can hear excerpts from the albums we review. From your push-button telephone, dial 511. When asked for your four-digit code, enter 8600. Then enter the Soundline numbers at the end of each review to hear sound bites from that album. Each call costs 50 cents. (Outside the Atlanta metro area: 900-950-0511; 99 cents per minute.)

Singer-songwriter Aimee Mann with "Magnolia" director Paul
Thomas Anderson. / PETER SOREL / Reprise Records