American singer Aimee Mann became best known as the songwriter for the award-winning film “Magnolia”. The career of the respected artist was subsequently paved by a number of nominations for prestigious awards, and even one Grammy for the last album “Mental Illness”. How will his successor “Queens of the Summer Hotel” fare?
Aimee Mann – Queens of the Summer Hotel
Total time: 40:20
Tracks: You Fall, Robert Lowell and Sylvia Plath, Give Me Fifteen, At the Frick Museum, Home by Now, Checks, Little Chameleon, You Don’t Have the Room, Suicide is Murder, You Could Have Been a Roosevelt, Burn It Out, In Mexico, Check (reprise), You’re Lost, I See You
Publisher: Super Ego Records
Aimee Mann has always been one of the more intellectual singers who targets more demanding audiences and requires a greater degree of concentration. In 1999, the then-beginning director Paul Thomas Anderson took a look at her work, and it was her songs that inspired him to write perhaps the most cult film, “Magnolia.”
Her professorial approach was perfectly combined with the art of singing and deep emotion, except for the previous studio artist “Mental Illness” from 2017. She easily penetrated the topic of human weirdness and weaknesses (alcoholism, depression, etc.) and the Academics rightly awarded her the Prize. Grammy for Best Folk Album. She traditionally took her time with the new material. Although four whole years have passed, attention to the human psyche as a source of inspiration has not left her. The “Queens of the Summer Hotel” deals with the difficult topic of mental illness and, in contrast to the album’s predecessor, does so with all seriousness. The playfulness of “Mental Illness” was replaced by thoughtfulness and tactful urgency. Originally, however, the record should not have come out in this form at all. The compositions were to be used for a theatrical production of the book “Girl, Interrupted”, a memoir by Susanna Kaysen about her stay in a psychiatric hospital in the late 1960s. The story is also known in the cinema screen – in 1999, the film “Disruption” starred with Angelina Jolie in one of the roles for which the actress won her only Oscar so far.
However, the pandemic again threw pitchforks into the plans and work on the production is suspended indefinitely. The songs are thus released as a separate album with a conceptual framework. But the result is unknown. Each of the compositions solves a certain fragment of the story, mostly sad, emotionally demanding. Right in the introductory “You Fall”, the author addresses the disintegration of the personality from the perspective of another person. The heavy song is accompanied by a slightly unnerving piano line and jazz-spiced vocals. It is a strong opener musically and lyrically. Behind the façade of the musically playful “Give Me Fifteen” lies a story about a doctor, a psychologist who boasts that he can solve all problems in a quarter of an hour. At the cost of a real understanding of the nature of the problem, of course. Aimee Mann herself also struggled with mental problems and reportedly encountered similar experiences. He then presents a clear attitude in the single “Suicide is Murder”, in which he warns against suicide at the bitter sounds of strings as a deliberate tragedy that will disfigure the psyche of the bereaved. He also looks into the dark family ties in the subtle “Home by Now”, where he watches the apparently unhealthy relationship between father and daughter. The New York excursion to the Frick Museum, which describes a meeting with the Flemish painter Johannes Vermeer and his painting “Girl Interrupted at Her Music”, from which Susanna Kaysen borrowed a name for her memoirs, is much easier.
The “Queens of the Summer Hotel” collection is not easy to listen to. Aimee Mann returned a little to her more demanding work with her. The songs are mostly dominated by a very static centerline. Mann does not engage in large musical or vocal carousels and almost reverently plays the role of narrator. She left the audience’s liking to the piano and especially to the string instruments. Compared to the predecessor of “Mental Illness”, which did not have a single weak point, the novelty is less imaginative in its conclusion, and due to the permanently darker mood, it is difficult to keep attention until the final minutes. Nevertheless, it is an extremely strong record that deserves attention. We will see if the jurors of the prestigious awards will notice it again.
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REVIEWS: Aimee Mann immersed herself in the dark corners of her mind at the “Queens of the Summer Hotel”