“Charmer” is less a term of endearment for Aimee Mann than it is a source of curiosity: What are they after, these charming people? What’s their angle? Mann, who made her name as a member of the Boston New Wave band ’Til Tuesday, explores the concept on her eighth studio album, a collection of smart songs drawn from what she calls the “super pop” of the 1970s and ’80s. The sound suits Mann, who’s always had a way with hooks like the muscular, blaring keyboard figure heard on the title track and the ebb-and-flow vocal melody on the rueful “Labrador.” On the latter, she interpolates a snippet of the 19th century pop ditty “Daisy Bell,” better known as “Bicycle Built for Two,” in a way that’s as unexpected as it is perfect. She duets with the Shins’ James Mercer on “Living a Lie,” examining the sort of life enabled by a charm backfire, and on the easy rolling “Soon Enough,” she foretells some messy predicament. Over the years, Mann has raised bemused regret to an art form, and with songs that are knowing, wry and effortlessly catchy, Charmer ranks among her strongest work.  –Eric R. Danton

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