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For kids who grew up on AOR, post-punk’s great innovation was that it allowed room in the underground for traditionalists. As a guitarist in Dumptruck and, for a short while, in Yo La Tengo, Kevin Salem applied time-honored six-string dynamics to music that, by its very association with a fringe movement, was thumbing its nose at the past. On his solo albums and as a producer for bands like Madder Rose, Salem has displayed his love for warm, clean guitar sounds; the sturdy riffs that occupy songs like “Run Run Run” and “Chemical Night Train” from Salem’s second release, Glimmer, ring like sonic salutes to everyone who gravitated toward college rock whose ancestry could be traced back to Neil Young or, more to the point, the Heartbreakers. Singles (albeit ones that scarcely get heard) are Salem’s forte. The scrupulously tailored verse-chorus cadence of Glimmer’s anthems feels so immediately familiar that Salem could probably make a mint ghost-writing for Tom Petty. But Salem’s knack for precision has its restrictions; whenever he strays from formula, like on the lame grunge opus “Destructible,” he just ends up sounding old. Guitar rock like Salem’s works best when the power chords behave, providing a rock-solid foundation for the plaints of a psyche in terminal disrepair.

—Brett Anderson