Just as Supertramp’s high-pitched woes seemed a bit more poignant when combined with William H. Macy’s pained, confused mug, Aimee Mann’s ponderous pop sounded a heck of a lot better with the drama of Magnolia supporting it. Mann’s fourth solo album (and the second on her own SuperEgo label), Lost in Space, is like a series of subpar “Save Me”s: all somber lyrics and plaintive instrumentation, from the opening breaking-up-is-bringing-me-down number, “Humpty Dumpty,” to the need-a-change acoustic closer, “It’s Not.” The singer/multi-instrumentalist kicks—well, more like spiritedly shuffles—it up a half-notch on relatively up-tempo tracks such as “Lost in Space,” “Guys Like Me,” and “The Moth,” though the eye-rolling lyrics on the last (“The moth don’t care if the flame burns low/’Cause moth believes in an afterglow/And flames are never doused completely/All you really need is the love of heat”) quickly stamp out the effect of the cheerier beat. Mann has admitted in an interview that with “The Moth,” she “[took] this cliche that’s so cliched and hammer[ed] it into the ground”—though hearing the end result, one wonders why. Mann is often glorified for her introspective lyrics and subtly layered compositions, but here the navel-gazing is reduced to faux profundities such as “We have crossed the Rubicon,” and the layering is done over and over again with little variance. One of Lost in Space’s energetic exceptions from the lugubriousness, “Pavlov’s Bell,” carries on the album’s themes of broken relationships and obsession (“Why, if this is nothing/I’m finding it so hard to dismiss/If you’re what I need/Then only you can save me/So come on baby, give me the fix”) but is one of the few times Mann really lets a chorus fly—in this case held aloft by Michael Lockwood’s fuzzed-out guitar. The CD is helpfully accompanied by a booklet full of drawings of displaced people and unpeopled places, along with comic strips featuring a couple of down-in-the-dumps characters. Just add your own real-life heartbreak and the wallowing, woe-is-me experience of Lost in Space will be complete. —Tricia Olszewski