Kristin Hersh's poetic, offbeat imagery and barbed emotions make most of her albums worthwhile, whether solo or going all the way back to Throwing Muses days. But she's at her best strapped to an electric and fronting a band, where her throaty vocal quiver and raw, idiosyncratic style match the volatility in the music. That's why her last few solo albums seemed to drift, constrained as they were by the acoustic folk medium, and that's why Sing Like a Star crackles with the energy of her old band. While not a full-on rock album, its roller-coaster arrangements bloom and explode in sync with Hersh's vocal moods. Cello and violin add texture to many songs without holding back the insistent rock tempos; the slow-burn "Day Glow" finally erupts in shooting-star trills of strings that descend over a jagged rhythm as Hersh notes "getting up is what hurts," and ends with her crying, "Have you ever felt hollow?" The Muses reunion three years ago has clearly reinvigorated Hersh, who's produced her most engaging start-to-finish listen since her solo debut, Hips & Makers.
Chris Parker writes about music for Metro Times. Send comments to [email protected].