by Geno Thackara
There’s music you love right away. There’s some that takes time to grow with a little familiarity. Then there’s the kind of thing that, for no discernible reason, might lurk in the back of your mind for ages before someday nudging you again and saying “hey, remember me?” In my case this one took years. Aimee Mann’s literate bitterness-with-a-smirk pop style wasn’t unfamiliar or anything. I’d gotten obsessed with that acclaimed Magnolia soundtrack, spun its companion piece Bachelor #2 to death and been bowled over again by I’m With Stupid. Then mid-2002 came around and Lost in Space was just… there. It felt unremarkable, didn’t make much of an impression and ended up largely staying on the shelf.
Maybe I was just being dense (I can’t rule that out), but this batch of songs is really a sleeper even by her standards. Nothing rises above mid-tempo. She sings “baby” a little too often. Even the choruses have barely any obvious hooks (though a couple are almost too lush and sweet to stand). The instrumentation is perfectly understated to leave the lyrics and the voice right in front, and those words are as delightfully tricky as she’s ever managed – not inscrutably complicated, but rather the kind of tricky that staggers rhymes and line lengths in unexpected patterns without ever coming out awkward. The melodies are generally ear-pleasing to follow whether or not they feel like they’re going anywhere, and that voice would be mesmerizing even if she was singing names out of a phone book.
This is a listen for late nights and lonely times as the cover suggests. It takes some time to get used to the largely plodding pace and take it on its own terms. You don’t have to be depressed, but it helps. The more you get a picture of the masterful songcrafting and/or the more tired and jaded you feel, the more Lost in Space makes deliciously bittersweet sense. After taking a while to really hit me, somehow it’s still only getting better.