Macy Gray

The Trouble With Being Myself (Epic)

If Macy Gray seems at times to be from another planet, that's because she probably thinks she is. With her squeaky rasp and spaced-out arrangements, Gray wears her superfreakiness like a crown. No matter that her last album, 2001's The Id, met with mainstream indifference; on The Trouble With Being Myself, she struts and natters as if she were the queen of the universe.

It starts off with a big bang. "When I See You" is a slippery slice of funk that wiggles among its grooves, grasping for balance and position. Gray effortlessly jumps into the middle of it all, scoring her best single since "I Try." Throughout the rest of Trouble, she finds solace in outer-space funk and retro R&B beats.

Thing is, with Gray, she isn't aware of her own eccentricities. She sees nothing wrong with having her three young children join in on the chorus of "Screamin'," a celebration of sexual healing in which she sings, "All of my troubles, they go away/When you're on top of me, lovin' me." And Trouble, despite its sometimes fussy song structures, pleasantly skews modern soul music. Arrangements are a bit cluttered and overcooked, but Gray sounds like no one else within her genre. Or on earth, for that matter.