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Bright Ideas

Mac McCaughan is busier than you.

Not only is he co-owner of the recently hot Merge label (home of the Arcade Fire), but as singer/songwriter of Superchunk since 1989, he is responsible for keeping the vibrant Chapel Hill, N.C., indie scene prominent by way of the band's recently ended 15-year run. In his spare time, he records as Portastatic, now releasing its seventh full-length disc. That's not including EPs, compilation songs and more singles than anyone other than an obsessive fan would be able to list.

Bright Ideas, the first Portastatic album to be recorded with a stable band (McCaughan's brother Matt on drums and Superchunk bassist Jim Wilbur), is arguably its best, but certainly its most focused release. Even though the sound shifts from the string-laden, rough-hewn folk of the lovely "Truckstop Cassettes" to the ragged country of "Little Fern" and the Superchunky slashing guitar of "I Wanna Know Girls," McCaughan's diehard hooks and careening, nasal vocals connect any loose conceptual ends.

The drums snap, the overdubbed wall of guitars strum, and the obvious care put into the arrangements and melodies shows that McCaughan hasn't run out of ideas yet. Alternately wistful, taut and rousing, there is not a throwaway track here, a compliment that can't be paid to many other entries into the bulging Superchunk/Portastatic catalog.

It's indie pop done right.

Portastatic plays the Earl, Thurs., Oct. 20, 9:30 p.m., with John Vanderslice. $8. 488 Flat Shoals Ave. 404-522-3950.

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