LA ROUXTrouble In Paradise

01. Uptight Downtown
02. Kiss and Not Tell
03. Cruel Sexuality
04. Paradise Is You
05. Sexotheque
06. Tropical Chancer
07. Silent Partner
08. Let Me Down Gently
09. The Feeling

Some artists work for years to gain a certain level of success; others take an unexpected shortcut. British synthpop duo LA ROUX clearly wasn’t prepared for the entire buzz their self-titled debut album in 2009 created. It’s not just that tracks like Quicksand and Bulletproof were solid mainstream-compatible hits but the duo even managed to crack the American market, entered the Billboard Top 10 and getting themselves a Grammy as well. Suddenly front woman Elly Jackson was a proper pop icon and appeared on a KANYE WEST album. With all that came a decent amount of pressure before the recording of their sophomore album. It’s been a tough way to the release of Trouble In Paradise. But in the end, there’s a satisfying result.

The work on the sophomore LA ROUX album got delayed multiple times. Jackson was exhausted and had to overcome a burnout. The stakes were high and during that struggle to stick up to the high expectations Jackson’s musical partner Ben Langmaid got lost along the way. The duo parted ways and LA ROUX became what it somehow always have been in the public perception – Elly Jackson to the core. Though Langmaid worked on a few tracks from Trouble In Paradise it was mainly Jackson and a group of new musicians who shaped the sound of album number two.

Jackson’s distinctive voice and her ability to intonate catchy pop melodies remain the recurring elements of LA ROUX while the music slightly changes. The hard and electronic dance pop of the debut is gone. Trouble In Paradise sounds more organic, lighter and even a bit more relaxed although still providing catchy electro pop. Looks like Mrs. Jackson chose the beach to overcome her fears, find new strength and melodies. Trouble In Paradise is a summer record that feels like a little vacation.

‘How could all these people have so much to prove?’ asks Jackson in the opening Uptight Downtown, questioning the daily race of the big city. A funky piece that reminds us a bit of BOWIE during his Nile Rodgers-produced Let’s Dance-era. Kiss And Not Tell continues with an easy going synthpop melody that invites you to whistle to it. LA ROUX fight the pressure with a big fat grin and probably a few cocktails with little umbrellas in it. Cruel Sexuality is another easy floating piece of pop although still providing a pumping bass-line in the background. And when we already head into sensual directions – how cool is a song title like Sexotheque? As 80s as possible. The track itself is also highly addictive.

Moments of introspection are rare but well placed within the album. ‘Palm trees make it feel like paradise but without you here there’s nothing nice’ declares Jackson in the tender mid-tempo ballad Paradise Is You. Still, even a slow grooving song like Let Me Down Gently becomes a disco anthem at the end. Silent Partner might recall the debut album at its best but still sounds like an updated version of the well-known LA ROUX formula.

Trouble In Paradise is still nothing more (but thankfully nothing less) than a highly addictive pop album. It’s richer in terms of musicality and instrumentation while still keeping up with the high standards Jackson had set to herself. It’s the perfect music for your next pool party or a hot summer night out. LA ROUX take pop music seriously – you can feel that within every note. And if Jackson keeps that confidence in the next months chances are high that she won’t remain a one- or two-hit wonder.

‘Trouble In Paradise’ redefines the well-known pop formula of LA ROUX while evolving the sound into a lighter and more organic-sounding direction without loosing its catchiness.

NBHAP Rating: 4/5