Christy Murphy – Feeling Good Looking Good (2011)

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When Christy Murphy’s off-kilter sensibility and spare folk-rock jangle mesh, as on the YouTube hit “Single Girl’s Love Song,” her album Feeling Good Looking Good is a merry little distraction. A stair-stepping guitar lick couples with a shambling, happy-go-lucky beat on “Love Song” as Murphy tries to sort through one of life’s more confusing dilemmas: Should you stay in an unhappy relationship, or risk dying alone? Why does it have to be one or the other, she asks before sweetly admitting that “being on my own these days just feels like love to me.”

It’s also one of the more notable moments of true vulnerability on Feeling Good Looking Good, and even that briefest of glimpses reveals a deeper songwriting complexity still waiting to be explored. More often, however, Murphy goes for the easy laugh, sometimes hitting and sometimes missing badly. That’s the nature of comedy, of course. One man’s belly laugh is another man’s eye roll.

Murphy opens with “Creepy Guy,” a chirpy put-down song. The song boasts a few funny lines, like “the last time you touched me, I felt my tubes tie themselves.” But there’s not enough musicality to carry the listener past the song’s essential quirks. Later, a weaving fiddle fixes the issue of musical depth on “So Not Cute,” giving the song a welcome gypsy mystery. Here, however, Murphy doesn’t do enough with the lyric. She offers a series of run-of-the-mill anecdotes about inappropriate behavior, from a frat boy hitting on a waitress to a kid jumping on the furniture at Ikea, with each new image punctuated in a metronomic rhythm by a yelping pub vocal of “so not! so not!”

Murphy also makes a habit of overstuffing her lyrics, to the point where it’s hard to sort out what she’s singing. Take the novelistic “My Passive Aggressive Friend,” where Murphy pushes so many words into each verse that the song appears to shudder to a stop under the imbalance. In the meantime, Murphy becomes a bit too pleased with herself, adding over-the-top chirping sound effects after singing “it was so bad at the mall the other day, even a baby shot us the bird.”

“Learning Annex” has a propulsive beat, but begins to rumble along at such a pace that it’s hard to keep up as she skips past a series of barely heard adult-education class options. You can’t blame Murphy for trying to elicit a laugh, but she appears to be trying too hard. The same goes for her country rag “Fourth of July Song,” an all-too-brief complaint about the obnoxious crowds at a holiday event. “Christmas Song” is a similarly twisted look at the holidays. Having left out a six pack for St. Nick, her character is forced to hold his beard while he vomits in the sink.

Yet, Feeling Good Looking Good can still be strangely appealing, such as on “Nervous Breakdown,” when Murphy patches all of these many strengths and weaknesses into a nervy pop paranoia. She perfectly illustrates the whirling confusion of mental illness, and how it eventually becomes a kind of quiet prison, but with a sharp wit. “Stealth Hot” deftly makes the case for geeky girls as sex symbols. “Sometimes I Do” revisits the touching fragility of “Single Girl’s Love Song,” as Murphy tentatively reaches out to find community in a confusing and hurtful world. “Did you ever work really hard to change,” she asks plaintively, “then get scared when things weren’t the same?”

In those tender moments, as Murphy moves out from behind the jokes and shows real courage, Feeling Good Looking Good connects.

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Nick DeRiso

Nick DeRiso

Nick DeRiso has written for USA Today, American Songwriter, All About Jazz, and a host of others. Honored as columnist of the year five times by the Associated Press, Louisiana Press Association and Louisiana Sports Writers Association, he oversaw a daily section named Top 10 in the U.S. by the AP before co-founding Something Else! Nick is now associate editor of Ultimate Classic Rock.
Nick DeRiso
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