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Tanya Donelly

Tanya Donelly is one of the most underrated and important female indie rock artists from a region (New England) that produced many (Donelly's half-sister, Kristin Hersh, Juliana Hatfield, Mary Timony, and Thalia Zedek, among others). She's a veteran of three of the more influential bands in terms of shaping the alternative pop landscape of the last two decades. The first and perhaps most significant of these was Throwing Muses, which she and Hersh founded when they were only 16, quickly forging a distinctively mercurial, unsettling rock sound that became a staple of college radio throughout the '80s. While the group made some brilliant, landmark indie rock recordings (in particular, 1990's Hunkpapa and '91's The Real Ramona), Donelly eventually grew tired of playing second fiddle to Hersh and in the early '90s formed The Breeders with similarly frustrated ex-Pixies bassist Kim Deal. Here though she ran into the same problem, as Deal took creative control of the group', so after one great album (Pod), Donelly quit that group too, finally forming her own band. Belly sported a shimmering, ethereal, fairy-tale pop sound that distinguished it from the spectral guitar-rock ruminations of Throwing Muses and the coy pop-rock of The Breeders. Initially, Belly had a receptive audience, their first album, Star ('93) going gold on the strength of their memorable "Feed the Tree" single, but the band lost that following when they released their follow-up, the less dreamy and more rock-oriented King ('95). Stung by the record's poor showing, Donelly broke up the band to focus on her solo career.

Donelly's first EP, Sliding and Diving ('96), and her debut album, Lovesongs for Underdogs ('97), found her working in a rather different space musically, crafting understated, folky, and pensive songs, even while maintaining the melodic pop hooks that made her songwriting so strong with each of her three bands. Fans had to wait five years for new material, however. Donelly spent the interval traveling extensively with her new husband, Juliana Hatfield collaborator Dean Fisher, and discovering the joys of motherhood. In 2002, she finally returned with the Sleepwalk EP, and followed it soon after with her second LP, Beautysleep, both on 4AD, the very label where Throwing Muses' career began. For both outings she enlisted the help of many old friends from the New England rock scene, including Fisher, David Narcizo (Throwing Muses, Lakuna), Rich Gilbert (Frank Black and the Catholics), and Bill Janovitz (Buffalo Tom), as well as the late Mark Sandman of Morphine, who duets with her on the track "Moonbeam Monkey." It's an elegant and diverse collection of songs, which at various points visits the dark, angular style of Throwing Muses, the shimmering dream-pop of Belly, and the more introspective folky stuff Donelly explored on her first solo record. Donelly remains a talented and appealing creator of smart challenging pop music.

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