Published May 12, 2015It's been eight years since Roisin Murphy's last record, Overpowered, but that's not to say the Irish electronic singer-songwriter hasn't been busy in the meantime. She worked with producers Crookers on 2010's infectious "Royal T," and her unmistakable voice was a highlight of David Byrne and Fatboy Slim's ambitious Here Lies Love. On her own, she released a string of singles, including "Orally Fixated" (which might just have had the greatest guitar solo of 2009), "Momma's Place" and "Simulation." Somewhere in, there she also found the time to have two kids.
2014 saw the release of the first collection of Murphy's work since Overpowered, an EP of Italian pop song covers, all learned and sung phonetically because Murphy doesn't speak a word of Italian. If that sounds like a weird undertaking for her, that's because it was, but Murphy's output has always centred on embracing the idiosyncrasies of pop.
Hairless Toys finds her once again paired with longtime collaborator Eddie Stevens, with whom she has been working since her days in Moloko. While her tastes have definitely shifted since her tenure in that trip-hop group, Murphy definitely still has the same flair for wide-eyed eclecticism.
A strong first half sets the tone for the entire record, composed of pop songs that unravel and stretch out in favour of catchy complexity: "Gone Fishing" sounds like the lithe Murphy we're familiar with, but as heard through melting speakers; the familiar rubber bubble shuffle of "Evil Eyes" pushes close to the seven-minute mark, but it's injected with Murphy's trademark humour and tireless funk; "Exploitation" begins with a percussive pandemonium before shifting to contemplative micro-house as it slowly phases out into spacey atmospherics, revealing a constellation of scattered melodies.
Murphy's previous records, Ruby Blue and Overpowered, were always playful, but never ventured far from the realm of pop song structures. With Hairless Toys, she successfully moves her songwriting into a realm that leverages pop buoyancy into much more expansive and complex territory. (Play It Again Sam)