The album’s a mere four lines old by the time she’s spotting hidden agendas. By the second verse, self-loathing and self-doubt have crept in. Welcome back, Aimee Mann! But something’s amiss about “Charmer.” The erstwhile Bostonian’s eighth solo release consistently has more zip than she’s had since the ’90s — “Gamma Ray,” “Charmer,” and others run on revved-up electrics and chipper low-tech synth lines that expand on 2008’s “@#%&*! Smilers” — but zip doesn’t necessarily translate to songs. Too many tracks flirt with flat inconsequentiality, and too often the lyrics slip by without the sting of Mann’s normally incisive wordsmithery. The exceptions shine, though, like the title track (with such a catchy keyboard hook that Mann’s singing along with it herself) and the melancholy clomp of “Soon Enough,” replete with backing vocals and a restless lead guitar that seem to nod to her early Jon Brion collaborations. “Everybody’s had their differences,” sings Mann. “Too bad.” (Out Tuesday)
ESSENTIAL “Soon Enough”
Aimee Mann performs at the Berklee
Performance Center on Nov. 3.