It seems you can always rely on Róisín Murphy if you’re in the market for eccentric and oddball but brilliant pop music. She also seems to be getting more prolific, which for someone this well established in their career is very unusual – Hairless Toys is her third album, but it isn’t even her most recent any more. Still, it came out less than two years ago, which qualifies it for inclusion in the review section, and anyway I haven’t heard the follow-up yet.
Some eight years after Overpowered, it picks up pretty much where she left off, but deeper and darker this time – the opening track is Gone Fishing, a pleasant deep dub-infused track with a murmured vocal. Frankly it would never have been a number one hit, but neither do you find yourself reaching for the skip button, and at the right time of day it’s very pleasant indeed.
Evil Eyes explores some dark electro elements in amongst a contemporary house beat, and is also very pleasant. At this tempo you probably wouldn’t hear it in many clubs, despite the great disco sounds in the chorus, but in the right environment it sounds great.
It’s an engaging album, but it’s also mellow enough that you might find yourself tuning out from time to time. Turn your attention back, and Exploitation has started, with its weird warped synth backing and soft woodblock sounds. If you can stop yourself from shouting “it should be whom,” this is probably the best song on here, and it fills its nine minute duration comfortably.
But this is, in a way, something of a genre-defying album – Uninvited Guest has an almost gospel backing vocal, with a bit of whistling and weird yawny noises in the chorus. At the same time, the lounge electronic piano sound bounces along with a bit of a jazz feel, the tempo shifts, and the whole thing is very odd indeed. In a good way – somehow it all works together.
Exile is as close to electro-country as you probably ever want to find yourself – it sounds like the product of a country singer sitting on an alien planet with its curious percussive noises, and at four minutes it’s also by far the shortest track on here, but it’s very good too. Then the trippy pad-driven House of Glass follows, gradually growing into one of the most uptempo tracks on here.
It’s difficult to find much negative about this album, unless perhaps downtempo music isn’t your thing. Hairless Toys (Gotta Hurt) could have easily been a huge hit single with different production, but the understated nature of this album makes it a gentle, drifting piece which sounds entirely brilliant too.
Finally, the album closes with the entirely appropriate Unputdownable, and Róisín Murphy‘s long-awaited comeback is over. It might have been a long time coming, and it might have been an understated release when it arrived, but it was definitely worth it.
You can still find Hairless Toys at all major retailers.