Five years removed from the Grammy-winning, self-titled debut, electronic artist Elly Jackson (going by her original duo’s stage name La Roux) returns with a new album, and a fresh take on the EDM genre. Amidst several other fantastic albums that year (BT, Goldfrapp, Groove Armada, and the return of The Chemical Brothers), La Roux did indeed put out one of the best electronic albums possibly ever heard that year. But during those five years, between touring and writing for the second record, creative differences arose between Jackson’s collaborator and producer Ben Langmaid, and he ultimately left the group. While Langmaid still remains credited for a handful of cuts on Trouble In Paradise, he hasn’t been in the picture with La Roux since early 2012.
In interviews and reports, Jackson has stated her goal with this second album was to establish a new, sexy sound to electronic music, and she’s accomplished it. While the self-titled album focused heavily on the electronic and production side of things and did it well, Trouble In Paradise shines in a similar way to Daft Punk’s Random Access Memories. The notion of making “real” disco and electronic music with real instrumentation versus entirely through computers is something that La Roux can do with little flaw. Daft Punk may have won Grammy after Grammy for their album last year, but La Roux is bringing a fresh, new look at the genre. The echoing guitarwork on the opener “Uptight Downtown” mixed with Jackson’s haunting vocals might remind some listeners (cheekily) of something like A Night At The Roxbury, but for every good reason under the sun. It captures the sound of the 70's disco better than anything else.
There’s definitely a sense of continuation on Trouble In Paradise from La Roux. Heavy beats and repeated choruses abound in tracks like “Kiss and Not Tell” and “Tropical Chancer”, but the real beauty come from Jackson’s ability to stretch herself musically. The album falls into a new wave category with a track like “Cruel Sexuality”, featuring driving bass lines and layering from Jackson’s overdubs, as well as a pulsating bridge bordering on old school trance. Her high vocals work perfectly with the heavy beat mashup of “Sexotheque”, a passionate track about a cheating husband and his amorous activities away from his wife. Another 70's vibe track comes in the form of the epic seven minute “Silent Partner”, and will remind early fans of the big singles “In For The Kill” and “Bulletproof”. Possibly the most passionate and soul-baring track on the collection comes on “Let Me Down Gently”, one of the final collaborations between Jackson and Langmaid on the album. A true love song, the lyrics permeate over the soothing synthesizer: “Tell me that I’m someone good / So we’re not so far apart / I hope it doesn’t seem like / I’m young, foolish and green / Let me in for a minute / You’re not my life but I want you in it” The words strike the chord for the relationship between the two, and even if it’s not about their split musically, the collaboration makes for easily the best cut here.
La Roux’s return is a welcome one, especially since Jackson hung up touring during the majority of the five years between albums. It may not be the electronic winner from 2009, but this new wave sound she has embraced is sure to bring some new fans, as well as please longtime listeners. Trouble In Paradise also shows that Jackson is much more than just a collaborator with a producer, and she can stand on her own quite well.