Wednesday, August 1, 2007

Overpowered by Roisin Murphy

On an almost weekly basis I fall in love with a song. (It's lots of fun; I highly recommend it.) I tend to listen to my latest crush over and over again, reveling in it and settling into an appreciation that continues after the obsessive moment ends. This week's crush is an exceptional one, because it's Roisin Murphy's first single from her second album.

If you don't recognize Roisin Murphy by name, your best chance of having previously encountered her is as the lead singer of Moloko. Their biggest single was the catchy dance tune 'Sing it back' in 1998/1999; it's one of those songs with which you might have hummed along in a retail store without ever knowing the name of the group.

Moloko was a dance/trip-hop/acid jazz project, and a good one, but when they disbanded in 2002 they hadn't quite indicated the type of music that Roisin Murphy was going to make as a solo artist. Ruby Blue, her debut in 2005, is an absolute gem that is difficult to categorize. She collaborated with producer Matthew Herbert (whose own 2006 gem Scale is a fantastic companion piece to Ruby Blue) and it seems to have brought out the best in both of them.

Mr. Herbert has also worked with Bjork, and while I hesitate to make a comparison, Bjork's willingness to throw out everything that resembles a rule and create from scratch is a good example to help characterize Ruby Blue's fearlessness. While the songs' structures are not unorthodox, it's hard to find reference points for them. An over-sized kitchen sink's worth of instruments and styles are thrown in a blender. The songs don't sacrifice accessibility, but they stretch you while you're enjoying them. And they're not different for the sake of being different; despite Mr. Herbert's reputation for whimsical recording techniques, none of the noises or effects sound self-indulgent, and final track 'The closing of the doors' is content to simply be an aching piano ballad.

For those of you who watched the first season of So You Think You Can Dance, you may remember the ten finalists doing a ghoulish post-Thriller number set to the darkly gleeful 'Ramalama (bang bang)'; that's probably the most mainstream exposure Roisin Murphy has received to date.
Ruby Blue enjoyed critical acclaim, and I was going to be quite surprised if she didn't make another album. Happily, that time has come. Overpowered was released a few weeks ago in the UK, and I don't think I'll be able to wait until October for it's release here in the States. (Why do they do that? Aargh.) The first single is the title track, and while it's not quite as 'outside-the-box' as the material from Ruby Blue, I find it completely contagious, hence this week's love affair. I am particularly enamored of the Loose Cannons remix, too.

Roisin Murphy's music is as easy to love as it is maverick and anachronistic; in another ten or twenty years I expect to be devoting a Strangers In Open Cars essay to one of her tracks. Don't wait that long to check her out.

Roisin Murphy official website