Aimee Mann Songs From Magnolia (Reprise)

National Records

Aimee Mann

Songs From Magnolia (Reprise)

Movie soundtracks currently reflect one of the record industry's worst money-grubbing habits, that of gathering an incongruous collection of cash crop bands. Yet occasionally, one hears an uplifting story of creative convergence, like Elliott Smith and the Good Will Hunting boys, or in this case, Aimee Mann and Boogie Nights director PT Anderson. This story, about a songwriter trounced by an unforgiving industry who then inspires a hot director to base an entire movie around her lyric, is indeed inspirational. According to Anderson's liner notes, his screenplay hinges on a single Mann lyric, "Now that I've met you, would you object to never seeing each other again?" Not surprisingly, then, the themes of Mann's narratives on this brilliant soundtrack walk hand in hand with that of the film: Our past actions can create a present reality that is grim, aching, and ultimately inescapable. Anderson so values Mann's words, in fact, that they propel entire scenes, most brazenly, the "it's not going to stop" refrain, sung by the characters as they accept their various states of despair. Though Mann's voice and lyrics, like the film, are relentless, buried beneath the barrage of bloody toads lies an outstretched hand of hope. Fab L.A. pop guy Jon Brion (Fiona Apple, Rufus Wainwright, Robyn Hitchcock) buttresses the hopefully desperate tone with his melodic and inventive production on the best tunes, which snuggle up nicely to the two Supertramp inclusions. And his instrumental finale, a deserted fairground lament, eerily but sweetly releases the tension from an intense album and film. Topping the awkward beauty of Elliott Smith's Oscar performance may be impossible, but with an Academy Award nomination for Original Song ("Save Me"), Mann will get her shot March 26.

****  

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