MARY J. BLIGE
"So I like what I see when I'm looking at me/When I'm walking past the mirror," the Queen of Hip-Hop Soul declares—confidently daring her contemporaries to accept themselves as they are. Even if Blige's brand of urban diary-pop isn't your particular brand of top-shelf comfort, you've gotta applaud her resilience; in an age where a singing career's often little more than a starlet's stepping stone and many genre contenders haven't hit 30, she's a shining, determined beacon, aging gracefully.
THE CAPSTAN SHAFTS
"Girl to Scoff World's Ills"
In the time it takes to peg this as a minor, bungled newspaper headline, fix the grammar, and realize you're guilty of the same degree of self-centeredness, this song has already ignited, blazed, and burned itself out. Shafts singer/songwriter Dean Wells, I suppose, is bound and determined to be the next Robert Pollard, and bully for him. Sound-bite sized, guitar-heroic flares packaged with fake U.K. accents and feedback move like hot wings around my house.
Any band involving the sonorous, bewitching Nedelle Torrisi should get the heck out of her way and just let her own the music; thankfully, that's what happens here, with guitarist/singer Chris Cohen (Deerhoof) and drummer Michael Carreira content to hang back and lightly set her scene.
SHOUT OUT OUT OUT OUT
"Self Loathing Rulz"
Was it really that long ago that dance rock registered as an aberration under indie rock's buffet tent? Today's scenesters can't get enough LCD Soundsystem or Daft Punk or whoever. Anyway, hooray for gratuitous cowbell, robotic vocal filters, and Indian-burn synths, but Shout Out Out Out Out are mere promising wannabes gyrating in the throng, even if this titular self-examination wins 'em some brownie points.
No Aphex Twin diehard believes that the Tuss isn't actually Richard D. James in some elaborate back-storied disguise, and the evidence here—kinetic, prodigious, thrilling, and distinctively maudlin, all at once—lends weight to conjecture that the godfather of IDM is, for whatever reason, unwilling to issue music under the name that made him famous (see also the Analord series of recordings).