Aimee Mann Spaces Out

Singer-songwriter obsesses over new album

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Fresh off the dual successes Bachelor No. 2 and the Magnolia soundtrack, Aimee Mann will return with her new album, Lost in Space, on August 27th.

"It literally feels like all my problems are over," says Mann, who suffered through several prolonged record company disputes before she began releasing records on her own SuperEgo label. "Of course that can't possibly be true and I know for a fact that putting out your own record brings a whole new set of problems, but there's something to be said for being able to make your own mistakes and not having other people making mistakes for you."

Freed from what she describes as the "record company dad," Mann now decides how to record her songs and with whom, if anyone, she writes them -- a point of contention for a former label that deemed Elvis Costello an insufficiently commercial writing partner.

"I wrote [the Lost in Space track] 'High on Sunday 51' almost like an exercise with a friend of mine, a guy who was actually my road manager," says Mann. "He was starting to write songs and write lyrics, and he was asking my advice. He played me the music he had written to them, which was kind of a little too happy, and I said, 'In my opinion, because these lyrics are so dark, you have to have music that kind of mirrors that darkness, because otherwise it doesn't make sense. When you have a line that's like, "Let me be your heroin," you have to really back it up with something that's a little more serious; otherwise it sounds like you're just kidding around.' So I wrote some music as an example and then as I was working on it, I was like, 'You know I really like this.'"

Produced by Michael Lockwood -- the guitarist in Mann's band -- the album also features guest contributions from Jason Falkner, multi-instrumentalist Jon Brion and Mann's husband, singer-songwriter Michael Penn.

An avid reader of psychology books, Mann gradually became aware of the related themes of obsession, compulsion and addiction creeping into songs like the album-opening "Humpty Dumpty," and the drugged-out hymn "Real Bad News." "I think everybody has that kind of behavior, everybody has that tendency at various times," she says. "They have this compulsive behavior where they get into these states where they're trying to alter their mood by whatever means necessary. It's really interesting too, because people can have a direction that seems healthy, like they exercise all the time or work constantly and so it's hard to call 'em on it, although it's really clear it comes from this really obsessive place."

Originally slated to be a ten-song album, Mann made an eleventh hour addition called "The Moth," a song that's now in the mixing process. "It's about the moth and the flame," she says. "I just keep going on and on about the moth and the flame, until the moth and the flame are totally personified -- they're practically like two distinct personalities. What I've done is take this cliche that's so cliched and hammer it into the ground [laughs]."

Mann plans to tour Europe this summer and then the U.S. in the fall.