Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Trouble in Paradise | La Roux


★★★★☆

Five years. Half a decade. Nearly two thousand days. Over forty thousand hours. Any way you want to count it, it's been too long since La Roux has released an album. In that time, the duo has dissolved into a solo effort by Elly Jackson, who struggled to regain confidence in her voice after the release of La Roux's debut  album. The road has not been easy to release a second album because of all of this Trouble In Paradise, but the results have not disappointed.

TRACK-BY-TRACK

The album opens with its lead single, "Uptight Downtown," and introduces us to a new and polished electronic sound. The chorus kicks in with a few extra instrumental stems and a loud wail of the song's title. The following track, "Kiss and Not Tell," is a cutesy, childish sounding bit with very repetitive synth and lyrical patterns. It's catchy, if nothing else, but doesn't particularly stand out. "Cruel Sexuality" seems take a much less bouncy sound, instead choosing to nod back to a seductive 1980s groove. The smooth vocal delivery really draws listeners into the song, especially in the chorus as Jackson sings, "Cruel sexuality / Am I fool to let you trouble me?"

This album seems to seep with sunny, bright influences and the electro-ballad "Paradise is You" is proof that it was meant to be this way. The song would be the perfect, glittering ending to a hot summer day's soundtrack. In the song, Jackson sings "And the palm trees make it feel like a paradise / Without you here, there's nothing nice / Because in your eyes, yeah, that's my paradise."

Sandwiched between two songs filled with summer-infused lyrics and influences, the song "Sexotheque" takes lyrical content back to sexuality and relationship issues. From what I can make of the lyrics, Jackson is comparing a discotheque to a strip club, essentially. In the chorus, she sings, "She wants to know why he's got all that money, money, money on him / He's at the sexotheque," insinuating the man is spending money on these flings instead of his steady girlfriend.

On Trouble In Paradise, La Roux introduces a electro-tropical fusion in "Tropical Chancer," which many fans have compared to Daft Punk's "Get Lucky." Steel drums, cowbells, synths, and Jackson's glossy voice combine to create an unforgettable tune about a womanizer taking advantage of vacationers that are easily to stumble into "true love."

Two of the first tracks to be sampled from the album were "Silent Partner" and "Let Me Down Gently." The former was sampled in an Instagram teaser, while the latter was released in full in May to raise some hype for the lead single and album announcement. "Silent Partner" is a long, dark track that is reminiscent of the soundtrack to the final 'boss' level of an old video. Meanwhile, "Let Me Down Gently" is divided into halves; one half utilizes slow synths and focuses on vocals while the second half wows listeners with a layered breakdown that definitely shows off the best of this new era.

Trouble in Paradise ends with one of its weakest tracks, "The Feeling," which features some very mousy vocals but very atmospheric, airy production. The track would close the album much better if the vocal delivery would have been improved, though.

OVERALL

Nine tracks seems like such a small outfit given the time that La Roux has been out of the spotlight, but were these songs worth the wait? Most definitely. It's obvious that these songs had a long time to ripen in the studio before they were finally let free to public listeners. Personally, the only track that fell flat was the ending bit, "The Feeling," but powerful songs like lead single "Uptight Downtown" and the smooth "Cruel Sexuality" draw attention away from the one rotten apple in the basket.

As I said before, Trouble in Paradise definitely leans towards a much cleaner production route than La Roux's preceding album, which really helped make this album shine. In all honesty, Elly Jackson's voice is slightly limited, but the sleek synths and glimmering sound effects of this album make up for that fact. On a last note, releasing this album in the dog days of summer was definitely the right decision for the benefit of its listeners; if oases had sound systems similar to those in department stores, Trouble in Paradise would be played on a loop.

Trouble in Paradise will be released in the United States on July 22, 2014, distributed jointly by Interscope Records and Cherrytree Records.

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Maira Gall