Magnolia - Soundtrack

I've always been fascinated by films which are scored with multiple songs by a particular artist.  The most famous example has to be The Graduate, with several Simon and Garfunkel classics. A more recent example would be Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers' score for She's The One - a CD exponentially more entertaining than the accomanying film. For some moviegoers, the soundtrack to Magnolia, featuring Aimee Mann, could be considered more interesting than the film itself. Like the movie, however, a deeper look is needed to notice the nuances inherent in the work.

You would be misled if you heard that Aimee Mann was the only artist found on this disc. A suite from the film's score (by Jon Brion - whose full score is to be released on CD soon) and two familiar nuggets by Supertramp are also found here. But Mann's music is the heart and soul of what Magnolia is. In the liner notes to the disc, film director Paul Thomas Anderson suggests his movie is "the perfect memento to remember the songs that Aimee has made."

And what a collection it is. Even though the songs on the CD are not all new, they form a strong and cohesive collection - a set which follows the pattern of a story. The disc opens (as the film does) with a cover of "One" (written by Harry Nillson, and popularized by Three Dog Night) - setting the emotional tone for what follows. Loneliness, stagnation, and separation are all themes in the first few songs. But the final two contributions from Mann point the way to better things. "Wise Up" is poised as the epiphany at the end of the film's second act, where the characters realize what could and should be done. And lastly is an expression of hope in "Save Me" - a great tune written specifically for the movie.

Uninitiated listeners should get a good grasp on what Aimee Mann is all about. She's a singer-songwriter, but she hasn't stagnated in the realm of trite acoustic numbers. Mann's arsenal includes striking harmonies, crisp and fresh production and a unique sense of musicianship. Once the charms of the quiet, effective tunes on this soundtrack get under your skin, you'll wonder why Mann has been uncerimoniously axed from two major labels.

- Derek Miner
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