Smart, Vulnerable and Highly Volatile
Róisín Murphy’s new album, Take Her Up to Monto, released July 8 through PIAS Recordings, follows up her 2015 release Hairless Toys. Often overtly sarcastic, sometimes unapologetically promiscuous and at times downright undecipherable, much of the album is dedicated to the Irish singer’s boyfriend and follows the ups and downs of their relationship.
The album was preceded by two singles, including the eventual fifth track “Ten Miles High”, which was accompanied by a video Murphy directed herself. Inspired by the architecture of London, the striking, futuristic visuals of the video compliment her multi-tracked vocals and aggressive electronic beat.
In contrast to the more modern feel of “Ten Miles High”, the first single, “Mastermind”, released on April 19, features a number of decidedly retro musical elements. The frantic pulse of synths and sequencers is reminiscent of Pink Floyd’s “On the Run”, and the drum machine hits and modulated vocals harken back to a bygone era. Depicting the strange power dynamic between Murphy and her boyfriend, the single introduces a recurring thematic element, which is brought back in the tongue-in-cheek fourth track “Lip Service”. It’s hard to imagine “Mastermind” getting much airplay or finding favor with the average American listener, but that’s probably of little concern for the experimental artist.
An early highlight is “Thoughts Wasted”, opening with a slightly out of tune piano and easing into a light, spacious groove that leaves room for Murphy to scold her intoxicated muse with her quiet, soulful vocals. Although the music itself is fairly light-hearted, the lyrics are quite dark, and the song concludes with a spoken monologue in which the artist laments human beings needing one another and maintaining relationships despite their imperfections.
Take Her Up to Monto is certainly not for everyone, but, whether you enjoy the music or not, Róisín Murphy deserves credit for committing to her own sound and releasing an album that plays out like a private journal that was meant for no one to read. She contradicts herself freely and rarely finishes her point, but maybe that is the point.