Music: The Sweet Sound of Magnolia

Aimee Mann's tales of romantic distress find emotionally satisfying release on a vibrant new sound track

When word leaked that Aimee Mann was recording the sound track to director Paul Thomas Anderson's hotly awaited film Magnolia, it was hard to know which was the bigger surprise: that a maverick songwriter from pop's margins had landed such a plum job, or that Mann was releasing anything at all.

To understand Mann's place in the pop universe, imagine, if you would, crossing Kurt Cobain with Emily Dickinson. Their offspring--literate, bitingly introspective, deeply contemptuous of money and fame--would be a lot like Aimee Mann. Because of hard luck and an incurable case of artistic independence, the gifted Los Angeles folk-pop...

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