ATP! Album Review: La Roux - Trouble In Paradise
Trouble In Paradise is a record five years in the making from the group. Partially from lead vocalist/keyboard player Elly Jackson’s struggle with anxiety and the recent departure of founding member and producer Ben Langmaid. The sudden hush from La Roux’s corner left people wanting more for the most part. However much of the Internet wrote them off as a one-hit-wonder, until now.
The album’s lead singles "Let Me Down Gently" and "Uptight Downtown" showcase the variety of production on the album. "Uptight Downtown" takes us back to the 70’s with flashing guitars and a bass line that will make any dancehall queen get down. As far as opening tracks go it does a stellar job. "Let Me Down Gently" shows a side of La Roux that we haven’t seen. After a debut chalk-full of heavy-hitting synths and bold vocals it was rather surprising to hear La Roux shift down a few gears. With a fluid instrumental backing Jackson’s bold vocals, "Let Me Down Gently" gave a good sense of hope for the rest of the record.
How did the group meet all of the hype? They went back to basics. It is clear that La Roux didn’t want to make the same record twice. Rewinding back to La Roux's 2009 self-titled album, the group’s debut had a nostalgic resemblance to Yaz’s Upstairs At Eric’s and The Eurythmics’ Sweet Dreams. Both of which were iconic female-fronted 80’s records. Both embodied by the singers’ abilities to employ vocals that grabbed the listeners attention, much like Jackson’s on the debut.
Sadly this is kind of where Trouble In Paradise falls a tad short. In an album that is marked by dazzling and top-notched production, there are moments on the album where the vocals didn’t really pack any punch. The track "My Paradise is You" carries this endearing message of infatuation of another person yet the message gets a little lost when the vocals are being outshined by glowing synths and frankly unnecessary reverb. As far as the closing track "The Feeling" goes, it follows that same sense of falling a little short. While the beat and instrumentation are on point, the vocals seemed all over the place and kind of throws the whole song off.
All that being said, let’s continue. Going back to the record’s production, whatever time the group invested to make this record sound good was truly worth it. The strongest tracks on the album lie in the middle of it. "Sexotheque" brings back the lustrous vocals of Jackson in front of a poppy backdrop as she lashes out at every knight of the kingdom of douchebaggery.
Now we must remember that Jackson also said the album would be “sexual.” "Tropical Chancer" and "Cruel Sexuality" prove to be just that. Both tracks accomplish this sexual nature in different ways. "Tropical Chancer" breaks down to a reggaeton beat that seduces the listener just as swiftly as the dancer Jackson wrote of. But if it’s sexual frustration and torment you seek, "Cruel Sexuality" deals with the troubling topic of sex as a weapon. Both tracks embody the truly artful songwriting that Jackson is known for and she again helps make a record worth listening to. With lines like “When you choose to deceive / It’s a dangerous scene / When passion turns to greed” from "Cruel Sexuality" that really sink in to the listener.
So was Trouble In Paradise worth the wait? Yes and no, but mostly yes. While there are minor moments on the album that felt a little flat or lackluster, those moments didn’t tarnish the record as a whole. Trouble In Paradise combines quality production and songwriting that gives it a special edge that sets it apart from the group’s 2009 debut. Will the record stand up to the rest of this years pop releases? That will be for the public to decide.
Trouble In Paradise is available now via Interscope Records.