For Aimee Mann, the soundtrack to Paul Thomas Anderson's Magnolia was her first opportunity to release new material since 1995's I'm With Stupid. True, some of the songs are a few years old, but this is their first release, and each of her nine songs for the film seamlessly fit together, achieving a perfect blend of musical and lyrical tone. They feel like a miniature album, and while some of these tracks are on Bachelor No. 2, the way they flow and play off of each other makes Magnolia feel like a unique, individual work. Of course, it helps that Mann is at a peak in her craft, creating songs that are not only beautifully melodic, but musically and lyrically rich. Sonically, they're of a piece - even her cover of Nilsson's "One" fits perfectly -- but there's a lot of variety here, from the bouncy, irresistible "Momentum" to the gorgeously melancholic "Deathly." Mann has shined before, but never quite so consistently. It's easy to get lost in her music, which is why it comes as a bit of surprise to hear a gameshow bell ring at the conclusion of "Save Me," cleanly dividing Mann's songscore from the oldies that are also used in the film. Essentially, the two Supertramp songs ("Goodbye Stranger," "Logical Song"), Gabrielle's "Dreams," and Jon Brion's theme for the film act as a bonus EP after Mann's mini-LP. They don't sound out of place, but rather act as a reminder that Magnolia is not a proper Mann album, but a soundtrack. It's a testament to Mann's strengths as a songwriter and pop craftsman that during those first nine songs, it's hard to think of Magnolia as anything other than a Mann album, and her best one to date, at that.
AllMusic Review by Stephen Thomas Erlewine
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