Sign up for our free newsletter
Free D.C. news, delivered to your inbox daily.
Looks like our little Tanya is finally growing up: After years of writing obtuse, noncommittal lyrics that scanned beautifully but said bubkes, the co-founder of such influential groups as Throwing Muses, the Breeders, and Belly has cast off the constraints of emotional prepubescence and entered the scary world of her grown-up peers. Sure, Donelly can still sound as if she’s scoring an ’80s John Hughes movie, but many of the lyrics she unveils on Lovesongs for Underdogs, her debut solo album, cut as close to the heart as she’s ventured. The album’s first two tracks, “Pretty Deep” and “The Bright Light,” are pop satellites that manage to burn off any prom-night energies Donelly has left in her little-girl soul. The out-of-character “Breathe Around You,” on the other hand, is a slinky rocker, with Donelly playing the gritty, Sheryl Crowlike chanteuse; it’s demanding and overtly sexual, and it works to every last bump and grind. “Manna” and “Swoon” feature mellow, introspective momentsaccented by strings, no lessin which the singer looks a lover straight in the eye and refrains from speaking in Seussian prose. Donelly may journey even closer to her pure pop core here, but that doesn’t make Lovesongs for Underdogs lighter than earlier efforts. In fact, with her honest exploration of heart and head, she has finally crafted songs that don’t take flight from your memory as soon as they’re over.Sean Daly
Tanya Donelly plays the 9:30 Club Oct. 30.