Aimee Mann strips down to madness

The singer-songwriter is sadder than ever

Aimee Mann's latest album is called "Mental Illness."
(Image credit: AP Photo/Kevork Djansezian/FILE)

Some musical artists continually seek reinvention, while others revel in the niches they've carved out over the course of a career. Now nine albums into her solo career, Aimee Mann has a well-deserved reputation as a somewhat melancholy, always astute singer-songwriter. On her ninth and newest record, Mental Illness, the singer allowed herself to go exactly where she wanted. For Mann, that meant letting herself get as sad as she wanted and scaling back the instrumentation.

"It doesn't feel like new ground necessarily. It's just my favorite ground, and I gave myself permission to tread on that same ground as much as I felt like," Mann told The Week. From the start, she gave herself carte blanche to write the most depressing songs she could. The result is 11 songs full of character sketches and reminiscences of people with various mental illnesses. While such an album could seem quite exploitative, Mann uses enough detail and nuance that it never feels like a freak show.

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