Release Date: May 12, 2015
Record label: PIAS
Genre(s): Electronic, Pop/Rock, Club/Dance
The release of a new Róisín Murphy album is always an event for fans of forward-thinking electronic pop, and even more so considering the eight-year gap between Overpowered and its follow-up, Hairless Toys. Along with starting a family, Murphy spent that time experimenting and collaborating; between all of her one-off singles, EPs, and cameos, she appeared on well over an album's worth of music. While most of that work felt like an extension of the disco-tinged sound that defined Ruby Blue and Overpowered, Hairless Toys opts for a more personal approach that is so powerful in part because it's so quiet.
Eight years is a long time to go between albums. Songwriters talk about the need to keep the momentum going between records so to take such a significant break can sometimes be a risk. On the other hand, it can also result in a complete change in direction. Hairless Toys lands somewhere in between ….
Róisín Murphy’s previous album – 2007’s Overpowered – was a humdinger. Featuring collaborations with Richard X and Groove Armada’s Andy Cato, its 13 elegant, hook-filled tracks touched upon disco, house and ’80s synth pop. Murphy’s new album – the superbly-titled Hairless Toys – is Overpowered’s long-awaited follow-up and a very different album to its predecessor.
Where there’s disco, there’s an intoxicating darkness. Róisín Murphy’s first album in eight years embraces that dichotomy on intimate late-night tales, both personal and in an imagined voice of the 1980s LGBT community of New York’s ball scene. A regal glamour illuminated previous albums Ruby Blue and Overpowered , but the former Moloko star’s third is her most exquisitely produced yet: inside is a hedonistic haven.
Back in 2007 the dance world was in love with Róisín Murphy. She combined the quirkiness of Björk, the sultriness of ABBA's Agnetha and diva-ness of Kylie. Then she disappeared to do important stuff, like have children. Forged with musical director Eddie Stevens: 'Hairless Toys' is outstanding, all elegant deep house offset by country-flecked soul and idiosyncratic downtempo.
Remember that bit on Radio 2 where Mark Radcliffe used to ask people where on Earth Kate Bush was hiding (it was called the Bush-O-Meter, how could you forget?) If Radcliffe was looking for a replacement recluse to crowd-stalk, now that the sacred Bush has returned to the limelight, Roisin Murphy might have been a good candidate. She, along with the likes of Alison Goldfrapp, was a goddess of slick, early '00s electronica, with her seductively husky tones and effortless, eclectic style. In short, Roisin was widely considered to be a bit of a babe.
"I didn’t become a pop star, and nobody knows exactly why," said Róisín Murphy of her last full-length album, 2007’s Overpowered. In retrospect, it’s shocking everyone didn’t immediately grasp exactly why. Never mind the talk of career repositioning and the Super Glue-sticky singles and the high-fashion diva-ing—Overpowered may not have been immediate, but it was classic in its own way, and prescient.
For most artists, an eight-year hiatus between albums might signify some sort of creative drought, but then Róisín Murphy isn’t like most artists. From Moloko’s 1995 debut Do You Like My Tight Sweater?, to her delightfully quirky solo record Ruby Blue, she has always existed in some sort of parallel pop universe. If Overpowered was her bid for mainstream stardom, she was ultimately left standing on the precipice of something greater, when her record label EMI failed to release the album stateside due to financial strain within the company.
Coming up during the era where a guy making beats with a girl vocalizing was most commonplace, even then Róisín Murphy couldn't create music that correctly fell in step with her peers. That was the '90s when Murphy was half of the trippiest of trip hop acts, Moloko. After an eight-year absence—during which she had two children, featured on a number of dance smashes, and released an EP of covers of Italian pop songs in Italian—Murphy returns with her third full-length, the quizzically titled Hairless Toys.
The tale of why Róisín Murphy isn't a super massive global pop thing will have future historians scratching their heads in disbelief. How someone with chart form as one half of Moloko could release a succession of incredible music to decreasing audience borders on the criminal. It's not to say that others haven't possibly cocked a look or two from her either.
You know about the big releases each week, but what about those smaller albums which may have passed underneath your radar. Don’t miss out on the smaller, lesser-known gems which might become some of your favourites. We’ve rounded up six of the best new album releases from this week: catch up with Chastity Belt’s woozy feminism, Passion Pit’s uplifting candyfloss-pop and more.
Roisin Murphy is a pop star for the art house cinema set. Her third solo album departs from the steady stream of banging club singles she's released in the years since 2007's Overpowered, and its brightly coloured homage to New York at the height of the disco era, to delve deeper into dance history for inspiration. On Hairless Toys, she fuses delicate, slow-burning deep-house-type rhythms with pop twang and the odd bit of glittering glam.