Kristin Hersh

Sexually inquisitive college girls have Ani DiFranco. Metaphysically minded faerie fetishists have Tori Amos. And aging Gen-X hipsters have Kristin Hersh. Of the three women, the latter is the most underrated and vital artist, and probably the most normal. On Learn to Sing Like a Star — her 21st release in the 21 years since she founded Throwing Muses — Hersh is still one of rock's few married parents who can write and sing as urgently as a tortured single white female fumbling through her twenties. On "Day Glo" she groans, "This isn't anything/Nice silver lining/Getting up is what hurts/Then you'll melt into the background." Maybe it's about a hangover. Maybe it's about aging. Whether you're 21 or 35, it'll hit a nerve. The bleak content won't faze her regular listeners, but the music will impress those who felt her solo material had faded since 2001's electrifying Sunny Border Blue. Serving as her backing band and fleshing out Hersh's acoustic guitar and trademark strings are Muses drummer David Narcizo, along with the McCarricks, an experimental duo who bring along tubular bells, a shaker, and backward piano loops. Blend all of that together and you've got an album full of haunting chamber rock, jarring dynamics, and a morose ambience evoking the Pixies and Nirvana's Unplugged. — D.X. Ferris