When San Antonio high school friends Phanie Diaz and Jenn Alva decided to start a pop-punk band, they looked no further than Diaz’s thirteen-year-old little sister for their singer. Even then, Nina Diaz had a powerful presence. As the trio, dubbed GIRL IN A COMA, gained experience, Nina’s guitar playing grew more confident and her voice richer with character. Few doubted she was on her way to becoming a rock star, especially when the band signed to Joan Jett’s label and began opening for acts like Morrissey and the reunited Go-Go’s. That big break hasn’t happened yet, but the group has just made its fourth, and best, record, EXITS AND ALL THE REST (Blackheart). The band’s previous release, an album of covers of artists it admires, ranging from Selena to Joy Division, has clearly had an effect. On Exits you can hear the three women testing new things they absorbed from playing other people’s music. Songs are more structured and ambitious, and the band has found new strength by holding back at just the right times. Credit producer Mike McCarthy (who helmed many of Spoon’s records) for the sound of the album. Phanie’s drums are thunderous, and Nina’s vocals have never sounded so commanding and at ease at the same time. If only the material measured up. The White Stripes–like “Adjust” and the poppish “So” are standouts, and there are no outright duds. But there’s also no truly memorable song, which is a shame for a band that has almost everything else going for it.