Like its title implies, Aimee Mann’s new album, “Charmer,” is seductive. The former ’Til Tuesday frontwoman and erstwhile Bostonian murmurs hypnotically about those that disarm us in ways both alluring and repellant — with the former sometimes leading to the latter. She does it all with her usual gift for earwormy melody, perfectly clever and cutting couplets, and layers of pop/rock dreaminess, complete with burbling guitars and shimmering synths.
We caught up with the affable Mann by phone from New York this week, where she was trying to reschedule shows disrupted by Hurricane Sandy. Fortunately, her Hub gig at the Berklee Performance Center Saturday is
Q. Several songs on the new album concern coming in contact with a charmer, and themes of seduction and narcissism, which seem like they’d be highly relatable. Did you know at the outset that it would be loosely centered around these ideas or did it just happen organically?
A. It was semi-organic because I had written the song “Charmer” and it was also a topic that slips in here and there anyway. But once I wrote the song, I started to think about it a little more deliberately.
Q. Many people are familiar with the idea of enjoying being the focus of that type of person’s attention, even though it doesn’t always end well.
A. It’s hard because this is how societies hang together is that they appreciate each other, so it’s appropriate to enjoy that somebody likes you, it’s not pathological. (Laughs.) It’s just too bad when there’s people who take advantage of that very human trait.
Q. In that same vein, a lot of listeners will probably recognize the images in “Labrador” — of performing tricks like a dog for a partner and the partner eventually tiring of those tricks. Where did that one come from?
A. Yeah, just trying to constantly please somebody who’s never going to be pleased, or somebody whose inner life is so bereft they keep blaming their discontent on you. I thought about writing that song because I had an ex-boyfriend who, anytime you brought up the concept of relationships or our relationship, he would just weirdly segue into talking about dogs, and how great dogs were and how they were always loyal to you no matter what. (Laughs.) Until I started to say, “Maybe you should get a dog instead of a girlfriend because it seems that you’re equating the two.”
Q. Did you find that you were checking yourself on the whole charm/self-absorption scale while writing the songs?
A. Well, I don’t really consider myself particularly charming. It’s not really that easy for me to talk to people at all, much less in a charming way. (Laughs.) I think when you really like someone and you really want them to like you those things kind of come together, and I think one of the biggest facets of charm is that you sense this liking of you coming your way and you want to amplify it and be close to it.
Q. You recently released a very funny video for “Labrador,” featuring “Mad Men” star Jon Hamm that is a shot-for-shot remake of the famous “Voices Carry” video by ’Til Tuesday. Whose idea was that?
A. The director Tom Scharpling. He’s a comedy writer and a really good friend of mine. We did those two videos — the one for “Charmer” [starring Laura Linney as a robot Mann] and “Labrador” — in three days, which nearly killed everybody. Those were both his ideas and I trust him to know what’s going to be interesting and funny. And obviously, having done the first “Voices Carry” video, it’s not like I’m going to have a sense of perspective. I think it would be obvious that I personally would have no interest in revisiting it, but if [he says that] to other people that would be a funny thing, I believe him.
Q. And Jon Hamm seemed to be having fun.
A. I love him. He’s a sweet guy and a real trouper to be part of it.
Q. Speaking of good guys and troupers, you must have been thrilled to get James Mercer of the Shins to sing on “Living a Lie”?
A. I know, another trouper! And Laura Linney was an incredible trouper to do the “Charmer” video. See this is the flipside to the narcissists and sociopaths out there, there are nice people who do things to be nice and that’s inspiring. (Laughs.) We needed a really strong male voice to sing this duet and his was the first name that we thought of and we were like, “Oh, he’ll never do it.” My manager was like, “Call his manager, you never know.” And he was in town and he was game.
Q. What’s the status of the musical based on your album “The Forgotten Arm”?
A. We have a different writer, David Henry Hwang, who wrote “M. Butterfly.” He’s been super busy, and at the same time we’ve been busy with the record and tour and I think we’ll probably reconvene in January.