You know her best as the eccentric pop voice in Moloko, that wacky dancepop group that turned out some of the U.K.'s best electronica. Alas, after 2003's "Statues," Moloko is no more. But lead vocalist Roisin Murphy is just beginning... her solo career, that is.
Don't expect Moloko's experimental pop, however. In "Ruby Blue," Murphy tries out some entirely new sounds such as jazz, low-key trip-hop and funky piano-pop, with a slightly psychedelic quirky edge. Sometimes it suits her unique vocals, and sometimes not -- more often than not, the wild little songs work out just fine.
"Ruby Blue" slinks into our ears with "Leaving the City," a jumbled pop melody full of tinny percussion and subtle horns. Murphy sings in a dreamy manner over the quirky arrangements. This gives a feel for what the album's sound is going to be like: It's not like her past work, but not like anything else either, really.
After that comes a string of unusual dancepop -- rather than your usual electronica, there's a funky, jazzy, slightly insane edge to Murphy's music. Yes, there's some keyboard on there, yet songs like the wild "Night of the Dancing Flame" or the fiery, bouncy "Ramalama (Bang Bang)" rely more on the organic drums and beats.
Not all songs on "Ruby Blue" are that much fun; "Through Time," for example, is pretty but unexciting compared to the other songs here. It's midtempo but very steady and quiet, and so after a while it gets boring to listen to. And the finale is a pretty song, yet somehow doesn't fit in with the rest of the album. Murphy doesn't sound entirely comfortable over a simple piano ballad.
In fact, Murphy's quirky, breathless vocals work best when she's singing over earthy beats and trippy tunes. When the songs are quirky and wild, she sounds amazing. In the quieter songs, she sounds distinctly out of place, not unlike a country singer trying to rap. Not bad, but a bit square-peggish.
Some of the songs lag a bit, or don't fit around Roisin Murphy's style. But "Ruby Blue" is an entertaining, slightly bizarre solo debut. Lots of fun.