I was 14 when Kristin Hersh released her first solo album, Hips and Makers. There was something harrowing and frightfully manic about songs like "The Letter" and "Me and My Charms," music that continues to rank among the most evocative of my teenage years. The Throwing Muses frontwoman has been public about her struggle with mental illness, and her music—her starkly personal solo work, in particular—certainly captures the often mad angst of adolescence. As a full-fledged adult, Hersh continues to forage her "fundamentally off" brain for poetic content: "They're idiotic optimists rubbing salt into my wrists," she sings on the nervy "Nerve Endings," a track from her seventh album, Learn to Sing Like a Star. "Nerve endings think they see pleasure coming/I know better," she continues, following a crying violin that echoes her cynicism. Hersh's voice is as ragged—and her lyrics as cryptic—as ever, but songs like the fantastic "Winter" (with its tubular bells and elastic bass), "Wild Vanilla" (with its brainy take on domestic lure: "You make the gypsy in me horny for a flower garden"), and "Day Glo" (with its sly, if not inadvertent, nod to "Have You Never Been Mellow") are the catchiest she's written in years. Learn to Sing Like a Star, which falls somewhere in between her typically spare acoustic solo outings and her harder-edged Throwing Muses output (Muses drummer David Narcizo joins her on every track here, save three piano interludes), might be her most coherent, consistently listenable record since Hips and Makers. Then again, straightforward observations posing as weighty philosophy such as "Froot Loops cast a shadow when viewed from the rug" make a solid case in favor of the more opaque ruminations the alt-rock trailblazer is best known for.