Portastatic The Summer of the Shark

Mac McCaughan’s Portastatic project has spent the last five years recording soundtracks, covering Brazilian tropicalia classics, and collaborating with free jazz saxophonists. And on his fourth proper full-length, McCaughan finally buries the notion that Portastatic is merely Superchunk unplugged, or a clearing house for leftovers. McCaughan has become even more of a romantic in his, ahem, old age, and even though he’s obviously wrestling with some serious heartache here, the swoony musical backdrop is a perfect soundtrack to falling in love again. On "In the Lines” and "Chesapeake,” he also pens some 9/11 notes on personal confusion and loss with a subtlety that doesn’t diminish their emotional power. The only misstep is "Windy Village,” a rock number that only leaves the listener missing Superchunk. He makes up for it with the more powerful "Drill Me,” and elsewhere he indulges in some extended yet tasteful guitar solos. This album almost doesn’t seem fair: he already runs the coolest indie rock label in the U.S., should he be allowed to have two great bands as well? (Merge)