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Liz Phair, "Soberish" (Chrysalis)

The '90s alt-rock hero's first studio LP in more than a decade is all about finding the manageable (if sometimes awkward) sweet spot between too much and not enough, not just with drugs but with love, work, exercise, money.

The songs ponder indecision and compromise; they capture relationships at critical moments of transition, as in "Spanish Doors," about a couple facing divorce, and the jangly title track, where a woman downs a shot of liquid courage before a rendezvous: "Why do we keep dicking around?/ Waited such a long time to be with you/ Now I'm chickening out."

Sonically, too, the music conjures an in-between state, with breezy pop melodies roughed up by strange textures and asymmetric structures that carry even the tidiest songs in unexpected directions.

As proudly as the album wears Phair's grown-up experiences, "Soberish" knowingly evokes her classic 1993 debut, "Exile in Guyville," which made her a sensation (and opened up a male-dominated indie scene) with its frank depiction of a 20-something's sexual/emotional awakening. She even reconnected with her first producer, Brad Wood, with whom she hadn't worked since the late '90s.

Yet you wouldn't call "Soberish" a throwback, in part because we're living in something of a Liz Phair moment. Her influence is evident in the work of Phoebe Bridgers, Snail Mail and others. No, call "Soberish" witty and wise.

Mikael Wood, Los Angeles Times

Wolf Alice, "Lipstick on the Glass" (RCA)

This British band makes rock that's sometimes dreamy, sometimes spiky. "Lipstick on the Glass," from its third LP, "Blue Weekend," falls on the woozier end of its spectrum.

Over a wash of synths and an undulating riff, singer/guitarist Ellie Rowsell sings about reconnecting with a partner who's strayed. The bridge makes clear that it's a road well traveled, as Rowsell lets her glowing soprano climb with each repetition of the section's only lyrics: "Once more."

Caryn Ganz, New York Times

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