Róisín Murphy: “Incapable”

Many of Róisín Murphy’s best songs hinge upon a single word—“Jealousy,” “Simulation,” “Overpowered”—terse incantations wrung for every iota of their potency. On “Incapable,” the Irish singer invokes a particularly loaded term, singing from the perspective of a woman estranged from the very ability to love.

It’s a sneaky tune. At first, it sounds celebratory: “Never had a broken heart,” she admits, as her longtime accomplice Richard Barratt (aka Crooked Man) threads a hypnotic deep-house groove with slinky hints of disco. It sounds like a boast; her voice is somewhere between blasé and bulletproof. But as the song builds, and she contemplates her curious, almost inhuman remove, her tone turns searching, then desperate. With the chorus, she cuts to the chase: “Never had a broken heart/Am I incapable of love?/Never had a broken heart/Yet I’m unavailable for love.”

Murphy has always had an enviable expressive range, but here she really leans into it, seesawing between breezy nonchalance and bluesy hurt, between a whisper and a growl. For a song about inner turmoil, “Incapable” is strikingly smooth. It glides on for more than eight minutes, disco riffs tracing delicate circles in the air as the synths rise higher and higher. Like the best dance music, it’s an invitation to get lost—only here, it seeks catharsis in the shadow of another’s emotional failure.

https://pitchfork.com/reviews/tracks/roisin-murphy-incapable/

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