Add another one to the list of much-delayed but welcome follow-up albums. Róisín Murphy might not be as widely known or as long out of the limelight as D’Angelo, who returned late last year with his first album since 2000, or Missy Elliott, who performed at the Super Bowl but hasn’t issued a new LP since 2005. However, the fashion-forward Irish electro-pop singer — formerly one-half of quirky ’90s/’00s trip-hop duo Moloko — has a back catalog that suggests she could pull off an overdue return about as well as anyone.
A world that raved about Annie Lennox’s powerhouse vocal at the Grammys should be primed for Murphy’s brassy avant-funk. Her 2005 solo album Ruby Blue, produced by Matthew Herbert, was a cult favorite; 2007′s sleek, dancefloor-oriented Overpowered was of a similarly high caliber, and when I saw her make her U.S. live solo debut at that year’s CMJ in Manhattan, she brought the intensity and poise of someone who ought to have been playing to a much bigger audience. Now, Murphy has announced she’ll release her first album since then, Hairless Toys, on May 8 via PIAS Recordings.
“Gone Fishing,” the first preview of the full-length, is no mere reference to Murphy’s absence — partly spent having two children, as well as releasing last year’s Italian-language EP Mi Senti. Murphy wrote this plush bit of boutique house after watching the film Paris Is Burning and its depiction of the drag “ball” scene of ’80s New York. “The culture was a flamboyant reaction to persecution and disillusionment, the imagination and bravery of these kids is simply awe-inspiring,” she said in a statement. “I envisioned ‘Gone Fishing’ almost as a song from a Broadway musical version of this story. The making of one’s own world, a safer world and the creation of a new, better family in music or youth culture is a theme I touch upon elsewhere on my album Hairless Toys.”
Murphy’s producer on Hairless Toys is her longtime live musical director Eddie Stevens. The album is billed as nodding toward “the dark disco of European house music, Casablanca Records and Grace Jones, while seamlessly taking in the freedom and organic spirit of jazz, country and gospel.” On “Gone Fishing,” which you can hear below, she intones, “The practice of realness feels so surreal.”