Reviewed by Heather Phares

Possibly their finest album, Throwing Muses’ fifth album, University, blends the rock power of Red Heaven, their first effort as a trio, with the shiny, surreal pop of The Real Ramona. The result is a collection of songs, like the album opener, “Bright Yellow Gun,” that are as ferociously kinetic as they are insinuatingly melodic. At first, Tanya Donelly’s departure from the group might have been seen as a liability, but on this dreamy yet direct album, it’s an asset: it gives Kristin Hersh room for her most wide-ranging collection of songs yet. “Start,” “Hazing,” “Shimmer,” and “Teller” are some of her most immediate, deceptively sweet punk-pop confections, rivalling previous Muses classics like “Counting Backwards” in their hooky intensity. Yet the delicate “Crabtown” and “Fever Few” reaffirm Hersh’s finesse with brooding, folky melodies. “That’s All You Wanted” and “Snakeface” remain two of the Muses’ catchiest songs, and the driven “No Way in Hell” and “Flood” show that Hersh hasn’t lost any of her edge. University’s smooth, streamlined production adds a bit of sheen to Hersh’s jagged, elliptical guitar lines and keening vocals, but doesn’t rob either of its impact; if anything, the album’s polish just heightens its flowing yet diverse sound. University is as hypnotic as it is accessible.