Copyright 2000 The Hearst Corporation  
The Times Union (Albany, NY)

January 6, 2000, Thursday, THREE STAR EDITION


LENGTH: 343 words

HEADLINE: Aimee Mann gives 'Magnolia' its spin By STEPHEN WILLIAMS Newsday


The concept of the motion picture soundtrack album has changed so many times in the past two decades that one hesitates to define it now.

Thank you, Aimee Mann, for yet another definition.

''Magnolia'' (Reprise) takes a severe left turn in the genre and in the process, makes a powerful musical statement by an artist who has long languished in the wings of pop music.

But not for lack of trying.

The biggest bang of Mann's past was her part in forming 'Til Tuesday in 1983. The quartet bubbled out of the Berklee School of Music in Boston, where Mann and drummer Michael Hausman were students. 'Til Tuesday's brand of pop hovered around moody, dark tales of spiked love and dangerous lovers.

Indeed, Paul Thomas Anderson, producer-director of ''Magnolia,'' which opens in the Capital Region on Friday, says that he wrote the movie ''backward'' from a line in Mann's ''Deathly.'' ''It equals the story of Claudia, it equals the heart and soul of Magnolia,'' Anderson wrote.

''So one could do the math and realize that all stories come from Aimee's brain, not mine.''

So what we've got here is a chicken-egg situation: songs written for a movie that visualizes the songs. Brittle and bold, Mann's songs for the film are ''Save Me'' and ''Wise Up,'' the latter one so affecting Anderson that at one point in the film, the characters are singing it. And ''Save Me'' has the typical Mann literacy -- and contempt: ''You look like/A perfect fit/Of a girl in need/Of a tourniquet.''

''Magnolia'' kicks off with Mann's cover of Harry Nilsson's ''One'' and closes with a pair of Supertramp classics, ''Logical Song'' and ''Goodbye Stranger,'' and a bit of instrumental by score writer Jon Brion.

Thankfully, Mann finally has a new solo album to release on her own indie label, SuperEgo. Lucky attendees at this past summer's Lilith Fair were able to buy an abbreviated version of this disc, called ''Bachelor No. 2,'' and the ''Magnolia'' CD lifts a couple of other new songs. Meanwhile, you can play all her old albums, over and over.