When I got to know Nick Murphy, he still went by the name “Chet Faker” and I listened to his critically acclaimed EP Thinking in Textures from 2012. On this EP, I fell in love with the combination of Electronic Drum ‘n’ Bass sound and Murphy’s incredibly soulful voice. Right after that, I digged for more music and found out that there already was a first full-length LP called Built on Glass from 2014. On Chet Faker’s first studio album we were again able to hear the characteristic combination of Jazzy chords, punchy beats and his awesome voice. However, this album felt a little less exciting than his EP, because – at some points – it felt as if his music got a little lost here and there. It still was a decent record that proceeded his signature sound, though. After this album, Murphy announced in 2016 that his pseudonym Chet Faker – which predominantly received a rather negative resonance among his English-speaking community due to its allusion to Jazz legend Chet Baker – was going to die and his music would be released under his actual name Nick Murphy from then on (in fact, it is Nicholas James Murphy). Along with this statement, Murphy released his first single “Stop Me” in 2016. Then, after three years in 2019, we were finally able to get to know Nick Murphy and find out what distinguishes him from Chet Faker – and there is a lot!
First of all – however – let’s take a closer look at the artist himself. Nick Murphy is an Australian Electronic Soul singer from Melbourne and was born in 1988 (one year before me). He received huge attention when he released his cover version of Blackstreet’s famous hit “No Diggity” in 2011 and was afterwards positively conceived when he released his first EP. The music can be described by a connection of smooth Drum ‘n’ Bass sound with Jazzy vibes – predominantly constructed by keys – and his recognizable voice, as could be heard on Thinking in Textures as well as Built on Glass. And oh boy is this voice heart-melting.
Run Fast Sleep Naked is Murphy’s first release under his actual name. Naturally, the audience expects not only to see change in the name of the artist but also a shift in the music the artist creates. Thus, I did not actually know what to expect from this album apart from the fact that there will be drastical changes. After the release of the first single “Sanity” in March 2019, the new sound gradually crystallized from what we could hear. There still was a certain extent of Electronic music to be heard on this track, but the Soul shifted into the forefront and this was also the expectation I carried into my first listening process.
The instrumentation on this album is what strikes the listener first, since there is a large range of different sounds throughout the entire release. We get to hear an entire orchestra and many different other instruments on the album, which crucially coins the distinctive sound of many tracks. This begins with the soulful sound on “Hear It Now” along with the harps we can hear on this track, which opens up the expectation for the following. We get synths, guitar, keys and different musical styles on all of the tracks and the orchestra serves as perfect underlining for the final track “Message You at Midnight”.
Especially when taking a look at Built on Glass, Murphy‘s voice shines intensely on this album. The soul, the warmth of his voice and the ability to sing on so many different styles is what is especially striking on this album. When I heard his voice again after the release of “Sanity”, I was so stoked to hear more because the song was so damn catchy. We can also hear his decent voice when he easily shifts between tones on “Sunlight” or during the catchy chorus of “Yeah I Care” that will not get out of your head for days. Last but not least, the vocals on “Believe Me” are absolutely amazing, which is why I want to write about that song in detail below.
Lyrically, the most striking song is clearly “Harry Takes Drugs on the Weekend”, on which Murphy depicts the story of two figures from conflict areas and their escape into narcotics as last resort in order to flee from the horrors of their surroundings. The loss of control, which could be said to be absolutely crazy in areas where bombs explode on a regular basis, is the aspect that eventually offers freedom to the figures discussed in this song. The desperation that is lyrically constructed is accompanied by Murphy’s rather positively sounding voice and partly Electronic music, which results in an interesting contrast that could be connected to introspection and external perception.
The most striking song to me, though, was the supposedly final track on the album “Believe Me” (supposedly because Murphy comments after the track “Dude, I’ll do one more”). I knew right from the start that this song will be the best one on the album. When those warm and soulful Jazzy chords start to be accompanied by the blue melody on the trumpet – undescribable – and when Murphy eventually continues to uphold the melody with his voice, I was in love. So much Jazz and Soul on one spot cannot be found anywhere else on the entire album. This track clearly stood out the most during several listening processes.
Unfortunately, this track also contains one of the aspects that need to be mentioned I was not quite happy about on the album. During the mid-section of the song, its sound is altered by a distortion effect resulting in a sound that could most probably connected with “outer space”. I can somewhat get that this effect tries to underline a certain concept of the album, but it pretty much rips apart the heart of the song. We start off with so much soul and then we just feel betrayed when the soul gets lost because of this awkward effect. In the end of the song, the effect fades and we can hear again what it sounded like before we went to outer space. This is a pity since the emotions on this song are so damn vibrant and the distortion part takes them to a halt for a moment.
Apart from this, there are also some other moments where the listener might get confused by the fact that the Electronic elements are confusingly inserted into the music. Especially on “Some People”, when the track finishes with an absolutely unconnected Drum ‘n’ Bass part that just crushes the entire song we heard before. Additionally, the tension of the album slightly drops after the third track “Sanity” and revolves around a similar sound on several following songs. Don’t get me wrong, this “similar” sound is quite good, but we could expect more from a musician like Nick Murphy. After having had a heart-attack from the massive banger “Sanity”, the album slightly drops and we lose a little bit of the attention. This eventually changes when the memorable “Novocaine and Cocaine” kicks off, reminding of Murphy’s well-known title strategy of “Drugs + Drinks or Feelings” (as in Coffee and Cigarettes).
So what’s the difference between Nick Murphy and Chet Faker, then? Primarily, the Electronic Chet progressed on this album, using his production to dive into more diverse sounds than before. However, the Soul and Jazz Chet Faker played can still be found at several points when listening to Nick Murphy – in a somewhat altered state. The entire album marks good development in Murphy’s music and I am quite keen on getting to listen to more from Nick – especially if the music captures an even more versatile song structure in the future.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆
7 / 10
What do you think about this album? This was an extremly tough one to me, since I am a big fan of Nick Murphy.
As usual, we added the two favorite tracks to our Transcended Review Playlist