Our pick of the week's best releases is the left-field disco queen's perfect partnership with DJ Koze
It’s a bold choice after naming your album Hit Parade to start with one of its more understated offerings. ‘What Not To Do’ is dark, sweltering and somewhat ominous as the track pulses and clicks below Róisín Murphy’s smoky demands. It’s a head-turner, but it’s not a floorfiller from the artist that brought us ‘Sing It Back’ with Moloko and ‘Simulation’, ‘Murphy’s Law’ and ‘Ramalama (Bang Bang)’ solo.
As it plays out, the Irish singer’s sixth solo album is instead a procession of low-key gems that still shine – at times at her brightest – despite only a few moments of what might be considered chart-ready hits. One of these is the single ‘Fader’, which recalls Texas’ ‘You Can Say What You Want’ with its gentle breakbeat, late 90s dreaminess and strong female lead vocal. Another is the breezy disco number, ‘Free Will’, complete with ‘pew pew’ lazer drops.
But the rest of Hit Parade is playful and unpredictable, often demanding several listens to pick up on subtle details – this may as well be the manifesto of DJ Koze, whose production here merges perfectly with Murphy’s malleable vocal abilities.
On ‘You Knew’, coming straight out of a late-night/early-morning party, her voice is pulled through a vortex to become part of the composition itself. ‘CooCool’ has that dusty record texture that comes so natural to the German producer, warming its soulful tones and making Murphy’s cooing feel like birds enjoying the summer sun. Interludes such as ‘Crazy Ants Reprise’ allow Murphy to flex her talent for accents and impressions, while pushing the album further left field to befit a new home in Ninja Tune Records.
Perhaps Hit Parade’s best virtue is its balance; for all the pair’s playfulness, it never feels abstruse. ‘The Universe’ sees Murphy’s voice rasp like a trumpet, drop in pitch and even trail off into an American spoken passage, yet remains the record’s most euphoric moment.