Review Summary: Roisin Murphy sentences you to an hour of dancing
Roisin Murphy’s Roisin Machine falls in line with the recent trend of 80s disco pop inspired music, in a similar style of Dua Lipa and Jessie Ware, but just a bit more colourful and lively. A little less cool and a bit more sweet. Most songs here are built around instantly ear-grabbing, groovy basslines, with simple yet subtlety evolving synth melodies fleshing them out. Everything here is catchy and danceable, but Roisin also manages to distinguish herself from other artists in the genre in a couple of key ways.
One of the most interesting aspects of this album is its willingness to take its time and let songs build slowly, rather than immediately hitting you with everything all at once. With several songs passing the 6 minute mark, it’s remarkable how consistently engaging this album is. It helps that every rhythm and melody on it is catchy as hell, but the use of repetition gives a lot of them a hypnotic quality, which is then disrupted with unexpected sounds and textures. It lulls you into a trance yet still manages to keep you guessing. It can border on repetitive yet it’s never boring. And when the hooks hit, they hit hard. "Shellfish Mademoiselle" is a perfect example of that, as Murphy sings “how dare you sentence me to a lifetime without dancing?” over rapid hand claps and a lively, busy bass melody. A pertinent question for sure.
But while this song is so enjoyable melodically and sonically, it’s also indicative of another quality that makes Murphy’s music stand out from her peers, which is her lyrics. They often revolve around a willingness to be with someone, and to dance, as a lot of pop music does, but they have an introspective aspect to them that gives them some additional substance. On the aforementioned Shellfish Mademoiselle she sings “I know, I know I shouldn’t really be dancing at a time like this. I shouldn’t be able to just block out all the pain.” It’s catchy, feel-good dance music that also explores the guilt associated with feeling that way in such dark times. Whether it’s referencing a specific event in her life or just the state of the world in general right now is unclear, but it makes for a really interesting dynamic between her music and lyrics. Elsewhere on the album she asks herself “never had a broken heart. Am I incapable of love?” Other pop artists have written a thousand songs about having a broken heart or being in love, but Murphy doesn’t even know if she has the ability to experience those things. There is clearly a lot of thought put into certain lyrical passages here, which are then blended with your more standard fare.
At the end of the day, Roisin Machine has the grooves and the production to instantly draw in anyone who’s a fan of this style of electronic pop music, with enough depth for it to set itself apart from anything else. It’ll make you wanna dance but it’ll also make you think a little bit, and that’s a powerful combination in this genre.