Tanya Donelly

Tanya Donelly's done time as a Throwing Muse and a Breeder, and as the front woman of her successful alt-pop power trio Belly; basically, if you need someone to score the introspective documentary you're making about growing up as an intelligent young woman in a world not made for them, she's your lady. On Whiskey Tango Ghosts, the third album she's released under her own name, Donelly eases up on the amplifier fuzz and locked-bathroom wailing and instead concentrates on finding a place next to the intelligent middle-aged women who've evidently inspired her: Joni Mitchell, Rickie Lee Jones, Judy Collins. Nearly every song here is built from a small palette of instrumental colors--acoustic guitar, restrained piano, the occasional brushed snare drum, some sweet lap steel--which means the tunes have to do the heavy lifting. A few do: "Just in Case You Quit Me" oozes heartfelt nostalgia, and the eerie "Butterfly Thing" deftly personalizes that cliché about the ripple effect of a butterfly flapping its wings. But Whiskey fades into overpolite coffeehouse nothingness too often for its own good. Listen too closely and you'll wonder if anything's really there.

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