Throwing Muses Credit: Steve Gullick

Few bands embody the aesthetic of alt-rock as thoroughly as Throwing Muses. Founded in Rhode Island in 1983 by teenage stepsisters Kristin Hersh and Tanya Donelly, the group made moody songs rife with sharp-tongued lyrics, postpunk guitars, and psych-folk vocal harmonies. Guitarists Hersh and Donelly traded lead vocals and shared the songwriting, and after adding bassist Leslie Langston and drummer David Narcizo, the band recorded a demo that eventually landed them a deal with London indie 4AD—the label’s first American signing. Langston left Throwing Muses to pursue other projects shortly before the band recorded their fourth album, 1991’s The Real Ramona, and Donelly left a year later to help found the Breeders with Pixies bassist Kim Deal (she’d later record more alt-rock favorites with her band Belly). Throwing Muses recruited bassist Bernard Georges in 1994, and went through some ups and downs before disbanding in 1997. Hersh then turned her focus toward solo albums, family life, and the harder-edged rock trio 50 Foot Wave, which she started in 2003 with Georges. Donelly briefly came back to Throwing Muses in the early 2000s, playing with the band at a few reunion shows and recording backup vocals for a self-titled Throwing Muses album in 2003. She’s absent from the band’s 2013 release, Purgatory/Paradise, as well as from their tenth album, Sun Racket (Fire), where the lineup consists of Hersh, Narcizo, and Georges. The new record comes across like an evolved version of the band’s late-80s material: though its rock songs sometimes border on the experimental, they stay tethered to the dark clouds of Hersh’s lyrics. The album opens with the crunchy, bass-heavy “Dark Blue,” where Hersh’s distinctive raspy voice makes her sound like she’s got a devil child trying to crawl out of her throat. “Upstairs Dan” feels like remembering a slightly disturbing dream first thing in the morning—the danger has passed, but Narcizo’s stark drums and Hersh’s reverberant guitar conspire to bring the monsters back. The melodic guitar of closing track “Sue’s” calms like a lullaby, at least until Hersh breaks the spell with her startling words: “The devil has no soul,” she sings. “Doesn’t love who he fucks.” Like all the best Throwing Muses albums, Sun Racket is bittersweet and daring but crafted with care and trust.   v