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Sport Murphy

New York artist Mike "Sport" Murphy is a kind of postmodern cabaret singer, an endearing nut who synthesizes a variety of musical styles into brief bursts of jubilant pathos and playfulness. He has the big, unlovely but loveable voice of classic singing-songwriting eccentrics like Randy Newman or The Magnetic Fields' Stephen Merritt that lends itself perfectly to his theatrical, occasionally baroque pop songs, many of which almost feel like they could have been written for the stage. To call this music lush would be an understatement; Murphy throws everything into his songs, including a wide array of percussion, horns (trumpet, trombone, French horn), organs and pianos (upright, grand, and toy), strings (mandolin, cello, ukulele, cittern, and violin), and didgeridoo. For good measure, he mixes in the noises of toys and kitchen implements, found sounds and cut-ups, and other assorted studio goofiness.

To be sure, it's a dense, kaleidoscopic brew, one that at times sounds as if it's been cooked up by a gang of mischievous preadolescents who've run away with the circus orchestra's instruments. But Murphy's heavy piano hall crooner's voice keeps the currents of grown-up sorrow and weariness flowing throughout the silliness. There's a lovely balance running throughout his material between the desire for childish fun and irresponsibility and the weight of adult cares.

Murphy's 2000 Kill Rock Stars release, Magic Beans, is a wild funhouse ride full of crash doors, dancing skeletons, and piano playing ghouls, but there are streaks of sobriety running throughout. The 28-song album includes the featured "By the Light." Sport Murphy has previously released Willougby, also on Kill Rock Stars.