Best of 2020: Cody Critcheloe (SSION) Thinks Róisín Machine is Perfection

Róisín Murphy’s new disco album couldn’t be made by anyone else.

My favorite album of the year is definitely Roisin Machine by Roisin Murphy. Everything about this album to me is perfection and exactly what I needed to hear and feel in this moment. It seems like a lot of the “pop” ladies in the 30+ department (including Dua Lipa, who definitely has a 30+ soul) are currently back on the disco bandwagon, but only Roisin brings a deep sense of control, knowledge, and nuance to the form. Shit goes hard and gets weird, and at the end of the day this is an album that couldn’t be made by anyone else. 

There’s a deep sense of longing and sadness on some of these tracks (even when it feels euphoric), and lyrically it feels alive and specifically… Experienced, which is something most people who decide to revisit the #disco #dancefloor #genre don’t really bother with. Even as I type this, I feel like calling this “disco” is sloppy and stupid — this is dance music, and it casts a big fucking net. It can be whatever it wants, and Róisín might be one of the few people in her field who actually understands this and makes it bend to her. 

There was an interview with Roisin this year where she talks about clubbing one night in Ibiza… I feel like I should share it:

You must have had some legendary nights in clubs. Do any in particular stand out?

Well, there’s a few, but one was in Ibiza. I’d gone there for a yoga retreat. I arrived a day early on the Saturday when everyone else was arriving on the Sunday, so I decided to go to [superclub] Pacha that night. Anyway, I got in at nine o’clock the next morning and found I was sharing a room with this lovely prim architect from London. I stripped off and asked her to wake me up at 5 o’clock for the next yoga session. Which she did, but I couldn’t manage it, so I became the talk of the yoga retreat. They were all like ‘she went to Pacha last night yap yap yap’ and I couldn’t handle it, you know? So I called a driver and decided to check into some eco farm hotel in the north [of the island]. And then I went on this magical mystery tour all of my own. Only I could do this, really, because I’m not famous enough to have it all laid on, but I’m famous enough for all the dangers to be there. And I don’t need a mate to go out with because I can always get into the club and know someone in there, so that’s sort of how I rolled for a couple of weeks. Anyway, I’d been out with Pam Hogg for a couple of nights and I don’t know what got into me – I was just in a bad mood that night – but I turned around in Pacha and said: ‘Pam, you’re just going to have to leave me alone.’

What did she say to that?

Well, off she went. And give Pam her dues: she has never fucking fucked me up over that. We’re still really good friends to this day. And then the next thing is, this bird I knew came up to me and said: ‘[Music producer] Nellee Hooper has a table in the VIP, come and join us.’ And I was with Kelis and Puff Daddy and Nellee Hooper and a few other people and you know, I was livin’ la vida loca. Time went by so fucking quick – you know how it does – and suddenly it was nine in the morning and the end of the club. And of course all these superstars sped off in their blacked-out vehicles and I was left without a lift. There were no taxis whatsoever to be had, so I ended up walking up the road in my high heels and my Zandra Rhodes dress with no sun cream on in this blaring heat – and I’m Irish, remember, so that’s not a great situation to be in. And then, thank God, some young lad picked me up in his Skoda and drove me to San Antonio where I ordered a taxi. I got home at midday, tear-stained, and thought: ‘Going from such sublime heights to absolute degradation, only you could have a night like that, Róisín.’”

I’ve been a big Róisín fan for a long time — at least by American standards — but I didn’t really know Moloko (her electronic duo with Mark Brydon) too well because I was too busy being a snobby punk. But around the time of Overpowered I was hooked. Then with the release of Hairless Toys and Take Her Up to Monto she became a top tier artist for me. The music was so bizarre and thrilling and she had the visuals to match (all directed by her!). Róisín Machine felt like this beautiful combo of all the things that she’s so good at… a definitive album. a lot of the tracks on the album were released as singles thought the years prior but once they melded into each other in “proper” album format the mission statement was undeniable.

I’m not even sure how I really feel about this year yet. I don’t think I’ll even really be able to put it into perspective for a while. On the one hand, something about all of this feels inevitable, even necessary at times. I’ve had some good times during this shit-show, I can’t deny it. This album and these songs have definitely been there throughout. I was chatting with some friends the other night as this played in the background. All we could say was, “Imagine what this is gonna be like to see live! Imagine!” Hahah, now I’m thinking of that John Lennon song. Ew! Get me out of here.

SSION is Cody Critcheloe, a New York City-based songwriter, musician, visual artist, and director.