In a more perfect world, this music would be inescapable. You would be hearing it on the radio, in commercials, in movies, and of course coming out of your iPod earphones as you worked out. As it is, even an archaeologist of obscure talent such as myself would not be aware of it had not the ultra-talented Ms. Murphy performed at a pickin' party that I attended in Manhattan. (Yes, they have pickin' parties in Manhattan.) Having seen her name on the announcement, and being unfamiliar with her music, I checked out her website, where I was treated to the brilliant, Police-like "I Wanna Go Home." Neither that tune nor her charming and entertaining live performance prepared me for the pop masterpiece that is Somewhere Between Starving & Stardom.
The CD reveals that the Police influence in “I Wanna Go Home” is no isolated fluke. If Aimee Mann references the production elements of the Sixties, Murphy manages to distill the best elements of early-Eighties pop in the aforementioned tune, as well as in the Men-At-Work sounding "At The Laundr-O-Mat"--a tale of a woman who, after spending a fortune on grooming to meet a man, lands one while doing a wash. Still, SBS&S is no more a retro exercise than Mann's records; these classic touches are just spice added to a few tunes, on a record that maintains a thoroughly modern attitude. A sparser sound appropriately couches a song called "Silent & Still," while a love song like "I Am You" mixes banjo and minimal electronics in a manner both current and timeless. The great arrangements and production are themselves flavoring for the excellently crafted songs and Murphy’s voice--a magnificent mix of Mann's wry experience and Dusty Springfield's vulnerable soul.
Somewhere Between Starving & Stardom is an unusual but welcome brew of mature witty wisdom and unshakable optimism. Whether she ends up starving or a star, Samantha Murphy should take pride in knowing that, in a less than perfect world, she has at least created one perfect record.