A five year hiatus, scarce appearances on tours and shows, and rumors of a split, La Roux returns to the mainstream with a new effort in Trouble in Paradise. Although back with a similar look, La Roux’s sound and style had definitely changed as the former group was now a solo act. Struggling with recent vocal troubles due to a muscular tension, splitting with long-time collaborator, and figurative silent partner, Ben Langmaid, the title Trouble in Paradise could not have been more appropriate for her sophomore release. Could front singer Elly Jackson reclaim the same glory or was Langmaid the reason that her multi-platinum debut was such a success?
Opening with the light-hearted, pop ballad Uptight Downtown, La Roux attempts to recapture the dance floor vibe that Bulletproof accomplished. Trading in the 70’s disco flare that made the debut A La Roux, Trouble in Paradise is more of a relaxed, easy-going listen that loyal fans may not find recognizable within the first listen. This single features less synthetic studio effects and focuses more on Jackson’s voice. Backed by a rattling guitar chord, Jackson still manages to enrapture listeners with her infectious falsetto hooks and catchy chorus.
The following Kiss and Not Tell continues the same blend of guitar and studio keyboard. Since the five year hiatus, the 26-year-old singer has matured in sound and sexuality. Not selling out to the blatantly obvious, sexual innuendos of current pop-music, Jackson channels the genre’s early 80’s content with a playful flirtation in lyrics and tone. There is an element of fun that carries from Kiss and Not Tell to Cruel Sexuality. Jackson’s vocals are relaxed and eased, but still hold the musicality of smart lyrics about lust, catchy hooks, and complimentary production.
The mood shifts from a playful, light-hearted playful ballads to a more serious tone in the second half of Trouble in Paradise. Listeners get a sense that the longtime collaboration between Ben Langmaid and Elly Jackson may have been more than just a work relationship as she croons about missing a loved one on Paradise Is You. The keyboard and minimal synth production make this pop ballad a romantic but sad listen.
Although Jackson’s voice is still the forefront and main focus, she trades in synth production and club/dance floor hits for a more organic and moody sound on her return with Trouble in Paradise. The departure from long-time collaborator Ben Langmaid clearly affected the singer and is prevalent in the tone and theme of separation and loneliness as recurring elements in each track. Lead single and one of the closing tracks Let Me Down Gently finds Jackson channeling an early Depeche Mode vibe as she says goodbye. A break-up anthem in disguise, the reverberating emptiness and vulnerability in the lyrics and chorus.
There is no denying that Jackson’s departure from the music scene over the past few years and personal drama have fueled the lyrical content and return with Trouble in Paradise. There is definitely an effortless sense in her vocal performances that does not overshadow the fact that Jackson worked hard to deliver a great pop listen. Although Ben Langmaid is still credited on some of the tracks, it is apparent that Jackson can still do this on her own. It is almost like Jackson took a vacation to the islands and let the ease and breeziness fuel this sophomore release. There is still a return to the dance rhythm with Silent Partner, but the majority of the album is a figurative trip to the pop beach’s. Faithful listeners of A La Roux may take a little longer to adjust to the new guitar-heavy, keyboard, and organic sound of the new La Roux, they should still appreciate the catchiness, lyrics, and great production that went into Trouble in Paradise. The only fault in this project is the quick listen and lack of a stand-alone, chart-topping single. For such a long grace period of no new music or collaborations, nine tracks is not enough to quench the thirst for more.
Review By Tyler Cole