Bandleader Kristin Hersh’s anguished singing and searing guitar lines goad drummer Frank Narcizo and bassist Bernard Georges through this set of melodic-yet-spiky tunes. One of the group’s most consistent efforts, University plunges the listener into dissonant emotional landscapes at once unnerving and seductive. “Bright Yellow Gun” and “Shimmer” churn and snarl ferociously, betraying hints of Jefferson Airplane-esque folk-rock. “Calm Down, Come Down” flows to a credibly funky bassline, providing contrast to atmospheric brood-fests like “Teller” and volcanic thrashers like “Start.” Hersh peels off layer after layer of mental protection in these tracks, veering from revelatory self-portraits (“No Way in Hell”) to snapshots of personal demons (“Snakeface”). If the lyrics trace disintegrating states of being, the music here is tight and scalpel-sharp. The band’s self-production is bold and direct, showcasing some distinctive flourishes, such as Hersh’s newfound affection for wah-wah guitar. Angular, angst-ridden and oddly cathartic, University proves that pleasure can be extracted from well-channeled torment.

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