Roisin Murphy and Nice as Fuck

Roisin Murphy – Take Her Up to Monto

Seven years separated Overworked and last year’s Hookless Tunes – uh, Hairless Toys. Now that the Irish singer’s on the assembly line it’s time to face facts. To her credit, she has no interest in recording a dance pop classic as febrile and playable as Overpowered, but quasi ballads with exquisite latticework aren’t her strength. I fooled myself into admiring Hairless Toys and still listen to “House of Glass,” but Take Her up to Monto can’t shake itself out of its mid tempo rut. As a headphone experience, though, it’s a trip. After a brisk start with “Mastermind,” in which Murphy vocoders a stream of consciousness monologue over “I Feel Love” sequencers, the orchestral swells, synth string pizzicatos, marimba, and theremin-like whistles of “Pretty Gardens” buttress a performance of beguiling divahood; Murphy excels at playing the grand dame, treating her scratched contralto as a pair of green fingernails, as a feather boa tossed over a shoulder. Solo George Clinton is not an inapposite comparison. The “Girl From Ipanema”-inspired “Lip Service” is pretty – they’re all pretty, all appropriate changes of pace on a dance pop album. Take Her up to Monto has nine of them.

Nice as Fuck – Nice as Fuck

Well, they’re right. Also boring as fuck. Au Revoir Simone’s Erika Forster and the Like’s Tennessee Thomas join Jenny Lewis for the post punk heebie jeebies: the oddest of detours for Lewis, who solo and in Rilo Kiley has mastered the southern California singer-songwriter ethos of wrapping a stiletto in a handkerchief. Imagine Lewis singing over Joy Division bass pokes and drum accompaniment and Seventeen Seconds-era Cure grimacing through the affected gloom and with enough echo to give the impression that she’s singing from the basement of a Manchester steel plant. Of course you can’t: imagine Linda Ronstadt fronting Wire. An estimable one-off if the songs had been any good. “Home Run” sounds like Blondie’s “Rapture” taken seriously. “Cookie Lips” wants to be libidinous but finds no hook worthy of its title or sampled screech. As project, this 25-minute album is innocuous. As a piece of trolling, it’s expert.

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