During her time as the frontwoman of Moloko and throughout her solo career, Róisín Murphy made a name for herself as a purveyor of adventurous, omnivorous pop that blended influences as far-flung as disco and hot jazz. Born in Dublin, Murphy moved from Ireland to Manchester, England with her family when she was 12, and remained there even after her parents returned to Dublin four years later. On her own at 16, Murphy had no aspirations to sing until she met producer Mark Brydon, with whom she formed the eclectic electronic pop duo Moloko. The pair's stylish yet quirky sound scored them several hits, including "Sing It Back," "The Time Is Now," and "Fun for Me." By the time of Moloko's fourth album, 2002's Statues, Murphy and Brydon's personal and professional relationships were strained, and Moloko called it a day after completing the tour supporting that album. Murphy moved to London and began working with forward-thinking electronic producer Matthew Herbert, who had previously worked on a remix of "Sing It Back" with Moloko. He encouraged Murphy to bring typically non-musical items like notebooks into the studio and use them in musical ways; the results were first released as three limited-edition vinyl EPs, Sequins #1, Sequins #2, and Sequins #3. In 2005, Moloko's label, Echo, released the EPs as the full-length album Ruby Blue. In spring 2006, Ruby Blue was released in the U.S. Overpowered, which featured productions by Bugz in the Attic and Groove Armada members and some of Murphy's most pop-oriented songs to date, arrived in late 2007. During the late 2000s and early 2010s, she issued a string of singles, EPs, and collaborations, starting with 2009's garage-house single "Demon Lover" (which was released the same day Murphy announced she was pregnant with her first child). "Orally Fixated," another collaboration with Bugz in the Attic's Seiji, arrived that November, and "Momma's Place" followed in January 2010. That year, she also made guest appearances on Crookers' album Tons of Friends and David Byrne and Fatboy Slim's collaboration Here Lies Love. In 2011, she worked with the Dutch DJ Mason, singer/actor Tony Christie, and the Feeling. She returned in 2012 with a trio of singles: the David Morales-produced "Golden Era" in May, the sleekly disco-tinged "Simulation" in August, and "Flash of Light," a collaboration with Luca C & Brigante, in October. Over the next two years, she worked with producers including Boris Dlugosch, Hot Natured, and Freeform, and also released the EP Mi Senti, a collection of Italian-language songs inspired by singers such as Mina. Late in 2014, "Invisions" -- another collaboration with Luca C & Brigante -- arrived. Early in 2015, the single "Gone Fishing" heralded the release of Murphy's first full-length in eight years: Hairless Toys was a more personal set of songs drawing inspiration from sources including Paris Is Burning, the 1990 documentary of New York City's ball culture and the African-American, Latino, gay, and transgender people who created it. The album was nominated for the Mercury Prize as well as Ireland's Choice Music Prize. Murphy returned in 2016 with Take Her Up to Monto, which she recorded with Eddie Stevens during the Hairless Toys sessions. Shortly after the album's July release, Murphy staged a show at London's famed Globe Theatre.
© Heather Phares /TiVo
© Heather Phares /TiVo
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Electronic - Released October 15, 2007 | Parlophone UK
Arty, cerebral, and sometimes downright kooky, Róisín Murphy zigs where other British pop singers zag. She's been one of pop's best-kept secrets since Moloko disbanded, edging her way toward a sound that isn't exactly mainstream but will give her the more widespread acclaim she deserves. For her first solo album, Ruby Blue, she collaborated with producer Matthew Herbert, who streamlined her sound into something creative but not gratingly quirky; even though "Rama Lama" ended up on So You Think You Can Dance, of all places, Ruby Blue wasn't quite a smash success. This time, Murphy teamed with Bugz in the Attic's Seiji, Groove Armada's Andy Cato, All Seeing I's Parrott & Dean, and Jimmy Douglass -- all forward-thinking producers, but with more conventionally pop sounds than Herbert's approach. Of course, by the late 2000s, even the most mainstream singles had at least a few unique production flourishes, so while Overpowered is without a doubt Murphy's most straightforward music yet, she hasn't sacrificed much to make it that way. With its sleek beats, bubbling synths, and nagging chorus, "Overpowered" closely resembles a state-of-the-art pop single, but the way Murphy sings of science and oxytocin over a heart-fluttering harp is unmistakably her. The rest of Overpowered follows suit, giving familiar sounds clever twists that will please longtime Murphy fans and win new ones. The effortless "You Know Me Better," "Let Me Know," and "Checkin' on Me" are chilly yet soulful, touching on disco, house, and '80s pop; "Movie Star" is Murphy's spin on Goldfrapp's glossy glam pop (and the only time she seems in danger of being overpowered by someone else's sound on the album). Even though these songs are immaculately crafted, there's plenty of life -- and Murphy's personality -- in them. "Primitive"'s synths and strings flit around like mosquitoes in a swamp as she wails "I need to let you out of your cage," while "Dear Miami"'s deadpan delivery and spare beats make it possibly the frostiest song ever written about global warming. Overpowered often feels less intimate than Ruby Blue, but that's a minor quibble, especially when "Scarlet Ribbons" shows off Murphy's tender side and the outstandingly crisp, bouncy, and sassy "Footprints" and "Body Language" rank with her best songs. Aptly enough for such a pop-focused album, nearly every song on Overpowered sounds like a potential smash hit. Even if this album is a bid for the big time, it's done with such flair that it just underscores what a confident and unique artist Murphy really is. © Heather Phares /TiVo
Pop - Released June 13, 2005 | Echo
As brilliant as Moloko could be -- on both their most eccentric and most conventionally pop moments -- their albums never quite jelled into something as uniformly great as Roisin Murphy's solo debut, Ruby Blue. By teaming up with producer Matthew Herbert, who remixed Moloko's "Sing It Back" back in the I Am Not a Doctor days, Murphy keeps the alluring sensuality and unpredictable quirks that made Moloko unique, without sounding like she's rehashing where she's already been. Both Murphy and Herbert are artists who are equally at home with the wildest and most accessible sounds (and especially when they bring those extremes together), so their reunion on Ruby Blue feels very natural, and gives the album a smoother, more organic sound than might be expected from a debut. Herbert's concept was to build the album around Murphy -- not just her gorgeous voice, but her life as well, and Ruby Blue reflects this with his skillful, witty use of environmental sounds throughout the album. Coughing, rustling, and other studio noise become a rhythm that in turn unfolds the gorgeously summery keyboards of "Through Time," while the more literal-minded "Dear Diary" surrounds Murphy with everyday noises like ringing telephones, buzzing doorbells, and what sounds like a ball bouncing on pavement. As quirky as the album might be -- and it doesn't get much quirkier than the spring-loaded, tribal rhythms of "Rama Lama" -- Ruby Blue never feels off-putting, because its flights of fancy are in service of the songs instead of distracting from them. The mix of '20s-style hot jazz and cool synths on the surreally sexy "Night of the Dancing Flame," the title track's elegant mischief, and "Sow Into You"'s crisp layers of vocals and brass are all mini-masterpieces of avant electronic pop. Indeed, the first two-thirds of Ruby Blue are almost too smooth, too perfectly realized to be the work of someone involved with a group as eccentric as Moloko was, so more experimental, unruly tracks like "Off on It" and "Prelude to Love in the Making" almost come as a relief (and act as a palate cleanser before Ruby Blue's striking piano ballad finale, "Closing of Doors"). As Murphy herself sings on "Through Time," "Could there be such a thing as beautifully flawed?" Ruby Blue flirts with perfection and settles for being the perfect start to the next phase of Roisin Murphy's career instead. © Heather Phares /TiVo
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