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The Mountain Goats - In League With Dragons Music Album Reviews

John Darnielle explores the humanity of wizards, sports legends, Ozzy Osbourne, and other folk heroes and beacons of hope.
“Old wizards and old athletes are the same,” John Darnielle said during a Facebook live stream at the headquarters of Wizards of the Coast, the game company that owns Magic: The Gathering and Dungeons & Dragons. He was there to announce the latest record from the Mountain Goats, In League With Dragons, and his rhetoric was appropriately fanciful: “They were once magic,” he offered by way of explanation.





Shygirl - Cruel Practice Music Album Reviews

Shygirl - Cruel Practice Music Album Reviews

On her debut EP, South East London singer and DJ Blane Muise combines venomous lyricism with tar-boiling industrial beats to inhabit a fierce, sexual, pathologically impatient, and deeply cathartic alter ego.

South East London singer and DJ Blane Muise recently explained that her Shygirl moniker had nothing to do with timidity. The alter ego Muise inhabits on her debut solo EP, Cruel Practice, isn’t afraid to approach others—she’s simply “not down for small talk.” In Shygirl’s world, “time is precious.” She hates when people waste hers, and it shows in a dark, seething persona that combines venomous lyricism with tar-boiling industrial beats.

That impatience has been Shygirl’s trademark since 2016’s “Want More,” her first release as one-quarter of London’s NUXXE collective. The single is a fierce declaration of what she does and does not like: “You wanna go slow, I ain’t into it,” she drawls. “You wanna fuck fast, I’m into it.” Her vocals hang back a bit from the top of the mix, and her bravado is still in the development stage, but the song contains all of the major elements of her style.

As he did on “Want More,” Shygirl’s NUXXE compatriot and go-to producer Sega Bodega fills Cruel Practice with enigmatic, anxious beats that traverse the horror spectrum, from Super Mario’s haunted mansion to Hitchcock. EP opener “Rude” begins with a nod to the iconic shower scene from the filmmaker’s 1960 classic Psycho, but this rendition makes the screeching strings sound bouncier and more pliable, primed to give way to the blown-out bass and stuttering grime sway that follow.

In contrast to the intense atmosphere Sega cultivates with his production, Shygirl’s vocals are unwaveringly deadpan without ever coming across as bored or passive. On the twitchy single “Gush” (co-produced by Sega and Dinamarca), Muise is as cutting as “Gossip Girl” queen bee Blair Waldorf: “If I was feeling you before, I’m not feeling you today/Or any other day/ In my feelings, that OK?” she asks, then adds, “I don’t need you to say.”

There’s an urgency to the assertiveness on display in all five tracks on Cruel Practice—a compulsion to outlast you, to let you know she won’t take your shit, to make sure you understand she’s a good fuck. No matter the circumstance, Shygirl is in complete control. Lead single “O” showcases her ruthless flow, unshaken by Sega’s clanking drums and synths that screech like a Jurassic Park Velociraptor. “Don’t get slack or I’ll ignore you,” she warns, savoring the momentum of the chase. On the EP’s final and best track, “Asher Wolfe,” she plays the scheming villain: “I got you right where I want you/Leave you where I got you/No one to help you.” It’s her eeriest track to date, but Muise wields her sadistic power with ease; her delivery sounds more fluid than ever.

At first listen, Shygirl can come off like the Regina George of grime. She wants to cause chaos. She likes to be underestimated. Cruel Practice could be the manifesto of a horror-movie psychopath. But the record and the character behind it are captivating because what they’re really doing is celebrating the agency of their creator. Dripping in fresh apathy, Shygirl’s blunt lyrics are self-protective shields more than weapons. When Muise feels out control and worries she’s lost her sense of self, songwriting is an outlet. She sees her music as a way of dispelling bad energy by pushing back at it. Muise isn’t transforming into a demon on Shygirl’s debut EP—she’s slaying them.



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