MENTAL Illness is American singer-songwriter Aimee Mann's first album in five years and you would be daft to miss out on the fine work of this wryly melancholic Oscar nominee and Grammy Award winner.

An ever witty observer of her fellow man and woman, Mann picks over the bones of her life stories to create characters for 11 songs, as told by friends, framed in acoustic guitar arrangements, supplemented on occasion by the strings of longtime producer Paul Bryan.

It might seem like your reviewer is stepping aside from his duties by letting Mann speak for herself, but actually her words best encapsulate Mental Illness. "The brief on me is that people think I write these really depressing songs," she says, and she is not wrong there, but those people are!

"That's my own interpretation of the cliché about me," she continues. "So, if they thought my songs were very down-tempo, very depressing, very sad and very acoustic, I thought I'd just give myself permission to write the saddest, slowest, most acoustic, if-they're-all-waltzes-so-be-it record I could...

"...I mean, calling it Mental Illness makes me laugh, because it is true, but it's so blunt that it's funny," she concludes. There, in a Mann-sized nutshell, you have the essence of Aimee Mann's songwriting craft: sad songs, yes, melancholic songs, yes, but full of barbed wit too, sung in a deceptively soft voice with a snake's bite around the corner.

Stuck In The Past, You Never Loved Me, Lies Of Summer and Poor Judge are among the best songs of a career that stretches all the way back to the brittle pop of her Til Tuesday beginnings.

If you have missed out on Mann since her 1999 soundtrack to Magnolia, wise up and take the bitter pill of Mental Illness. The Huffington Post names her among the 13 (why 13?) Funny Musicians You Should Be Following On Twitter. By all means, do that, but you will find more character still in her songs than in her 140-character tweets.