It is something of a mystery why Aimee Mann, recording solo since 1993, has only managed to produce four albums (disregarding the soundtrack to Magnolia, which was mostly comprised of material from her 1999 release, Bachelor No. 2). Maybe it’s a result of her well-publicized tumultuous parting with former record label Imago. But with all the downtime between albums, one would think that Mann might utilize her hiatuses to accumulate and polish songs for future albums that might redefine her art. After all, Mann has already shown strokes of musical and lyrical aptitude, perhaps most clearly displayed on Bachelor No. 2.
Unfortunately, Lost in Space, Mann’s first release in three years and second release on her own label, Super Ego, doesn’t seem to indicate much musical development or superiority over previous works. Most of the songs on Lost in Space sound as if they could have been outtakes from the Bachelor No. 2 sessions.
For those unfamiliar with Mann’s work, it is a fair assessment to say that describing her songs as melancholy gives scant justice to her doom and gloom. The tone of melancholy is no different. With electric guitars, sorrowing string arrangements and stark electronic effects layered over slow, dragging drumbeats, her records, including this one, go beyond the realm of malaise and seem more like soundtracks to an unable-to-get-out-of-bed type of depression. On the album’s title track, for example, Mann masterfully sings in her characteristic deadpan delivery: “Baby beware/ I’m just pretending to care/ Like I’m not even there/ Gone but I don’t know where.”
Those who have never heard Aimee Mann may enjoy it, and her fans may not be disappointed either, but this album lacks standout tracks like Bachelor No. 2‘s “Just Like Anyone,” which deals with the guilt of surviving a close friend’s suicide. But the songs on Lost in Space seem to lack the same depth characteristic of Mann’s past efforts.
With the exception of some new, spacey electronic sound effects, this album offers little else of note. Lost in Space treads Mann’s same familiar territory and does it with her usual bleak grace. It’s like a dish of good vanilla ice cream: predictably satisfying, but offering no surprises.