ROISIN MURPHY – HAIRLESS TOYS (ALBUM REVIEW)

Irish singer-songwriter Roisin Murphy is best known for her work with electro-pop duo Moloko from 1994-2004, spawning hits including Sing It Back, The Time Is Now and Familiar Feeling. Beyond this she has crafted herself a moderately successful career as a solo artist. Her debut record Ruby Blue was released in 2005 and was co-produced by Matthew Herbert. She expanded upon her creative talents as a performer and producer, delving into the realms of minimalist electronica, jazz-pop, soul, funk and quirky sampling using brass and woodwind instruments as well as an array of household items. Singles included If We’re In Love and Sow Into You.

Her follow up album Overpowered was released in 2007 and was co-produced by several people including Dan Carey, Andy Cato, Richard X and Mike Ward. This record was slightly more mainstream compared to its predecessor but no less boundary pushing or experimental in style. Her style shifted between electro-pop, disco, funk and house music. Singles included Overpowered, You Know Me Better, Let Me Know and Moviestar. Since then, Roisin has been extremely busy between musical projects, collaborating with many dance acts and releasing many one-off singles including Demon Lover and Orally Fixated both in 2009. She also released her first Italian EP called Mi Senti last year.

And now in 2015, after 8 years of waiting, she has finally released her third studio album called Hairless Toys which was co-produced with Eddie Stevens who previously worked with her on the last Moloko record Statues. From her music videos and CD booklet, you can tell how much she embraces high fashion wearing long trenchcoats, crisp button up shirts, pencil skirts and designer shades. Here is my track by track review:

1. GONE FISHING…Roisin actually shared this track on her Soundcloud account back in February this year. Opening with minimalist synths and funky basslines, Roisin sings in a hushed whisper behind layers of programming with the harmonies increasing in strength as the track progresses. This is a very dreamy, laid-back track unlike the anthemic upbeat house numbers from the previous record. She has clearly matured and changed musical direction without losing her unique sense of style. This track was inspired by the film Paris is Burning.

2. EVIL EYES…Second single to be released from the album. Beginning in a very minimalist style with blippy electronic beats, rhythmic hand claps and funky basslines before a barrage of spontaneous synths. Everything is used sparsely and is built up in layers with Roisin beautifully wailing over the top. Parts of this track really remind me of Goldfrapp and Bjork as it becomes increasingly more quirky and off beat. The droning backing vocals also adds another layer of depth to this brilliant track.

3. EXPLOITATION…First track to be released from the album features Roisin at her most experimental with off kilter beats, loads of quirky reverb, disorienting piano chords, funky basslines and dashes of synth. This is also the longest track on the album clocking in at over 9 minutes but thankfully things far from drag musically. Each layer is added gradually to make a really complex electronic tapestry with Roisin’s soulful yet understated vocal delivery weaving in and out. This is one of those tracks that reveals more and more on repeated listens.

4. UNINVITED GUEST…Starting with some groovy basslines, punchy beats and even some whistling from Eddie Stevens, this track also reveals Roisin at her most personal lyrically as she intones “all alone and it looks like everyone else is busy, all avoiding eye contact with me, I could be well dressed even on the money I’ve left, I could buy another day of nothing.” There is also a sweeping, surrealist quality to this track with the background singers adding plenty of quirky wails. It becomes quite uplifting in melodic about halfway through the track before returning to the funky house beats and catchy whistling.

5. EXILE…Going even more downtempo on this track with shimmering basslines, squelching beats and low-key drum patterns. Roisin’s vocal delivery slows down even further into a deep seductive state. You could just imagine yourself lazying back on a deck chair somewhere on a beautiful beach. This is the kind of imagery this track conjures up.

6. HOUSE OF GLASS…Beginning with a repetitive low-fi disco beat, Roisin sings in a near acapella style. It’s another stripped back slice of electronic bliss that slowly builds up as it progresses. Eventually the beats pick up in intensity and languid basslines are added. The second half of the track instantly becomes funky and upbeat as Roisin’s voice fades in and out and haunting backing vocals are added.

7. HAIRLESS TOYS (GOTTA HURT)…Opening with some lovely piano chords and a soft minimalist beat, Roisin’s voice is slowly buried and resurfaced repeatedly beneath fuzzy layers of programming. The melody slowly builds up in a very tranquil formation with rippling keyboard effects and lovely backing vocals soaring above. Towards the end of the track, Roisin’s vocals are lifted into the natural and suddenly a wave of synths are dropped in a beautiful crescendo effect.

8. UNPUTDOWNABLE…This closing track opens with some icy piano chords which almost have a musical jewellery box quality to them. Some shimmering basslines and guitars are added in for the chorus. This is another slow building track with the minimalist beats and quirky instrumentation eventually reaching a charming climax.

Audio track of Gone Fishing: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ApT34YxdxE8

Music Video for Evil Eyes: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vvaWPm6WQPs

Music Video for Exploitation: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NjSwFsPCeJ4

Album Sampler: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uRnG4UB5uHc

Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/R%C3%B3is%C3%ADn_Murphy

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