After a five year break from the music industry, La Roux is back with an album full of 80’s inspired vibes that feel familiar yet fresh, all wrapped up in a stylishly-covered nine track package.
‘La Roux’, French for ‘red-haired one’, originally formed as a duo consisting of Elly Jackson, the face and voice of the music; and Ben Langmaid, the producer of past hits including ‘Bulletproof’ and ‘In For The Kill’. However earlier this year the hit-making team announced a professional parting, leaving Elly Jackson a solo artist.
The change is noticeable in the music, however it is by no means a negative one. Despite the reportedly long, laborious process of crafting the album, the whole thing feels effortless and entirely listenable. Opening track and lead single ‘Uptight Downtown’ perfectly sets the tone for the album. The 80’s inspired sound that made La Roux such a unique act in the first place is still there, but there’s something that feels a little bit cooler than their debut album, which was much more in-your-face and occasionally grating. If ‘La Roux’ was her Dead Or Alive, then ‘Trouble In Paradise’ is her David Bowie.
One of the first things that stands out (or rather, doesn’t stand out) is the quality of Jackson’s voice on the record. Gone are the shrill tones that made her appeal like marmite, instead replaced by controlled yet still distinctive vocals that are much easier on the ear. They are by no means perfect – they do come across as slightly flat on some songs – but there’s a significant improvement over previous material, which is especially surprising after bouts of panic attacks and suspected throat cancer rendered Jackson unable to perform shortly after the release of her debut album. Besides, no one is expecting Beyonce-style belters from La Roux, instead we get the synth-heavy beats and infectious hooks that made their debut album such a success.
There is, however, one exception to this in the form of ‘Paradise Is You’, Jackson’s first attempt at a proper ballad. The slower pace and more simplistic production is a welcome break, and Jackson’s voice really gets a chance to shine. The lyrics are the perfect balance of emotion and cheese (‘And the palm trees make it feel like paradise; But without you here there’s nothing nice’), while the sweeping instrumental and echoing vocal effects ensure the track could rival some of the best love ballads of the eighties.
‘Let Me Down Gently’ features a similar sound, however after a moment of silence halfway through the song it really gets into motion, with added layers of instruments and powerful chants, and a sax solo that’s ripped right out of a Duran Duran smash. It’s moments like this that, despite some clear influences, make the album sound so fresh and exciting amongst the current EDM-filled pop music scene.
With a coherent sound and vision, and production that borrows from and improves upon their debut album, Trouble In Paradise may be the best, if slightly short, pop music release of 2014.
Stand out tracks: Uptight Downtown, Cruel Sexuality, Paradise Is You, Tropical Chancer.
Trouble In Paradise is released 21st July and is available for pre-order and streaming on iTunes now.