I have a love-hate relationship with pop music – especially synth-pop. There are always two courses to pop music: it is either going to be terrible or it is going to be absolutely brilliant and remain on my playlists for a while. The latter happens rather infrequently. It becomes even more infrequent when the artist decides to take what they usually conisder to be an “artsy” course of pursuing the synthetic world of slightly more obscure indie-pop. More often than not, the songs become overwhelmed with synthetic tones that drown out any enjoyment from the album – see Metronomy’s Love Letters.
Gushing with sickeningly brillaint tunes, La Roux’s long-awaited sophomore album is finally here. Trouble In Paradise comes at you like a seductively clad woman – almost five years after the release of her debut album. This effort emerges from a period fraught with troubles, such as Elly Jackson (the principal songwriter, singer and producer) fighting a bout with throat cancer and her co-producer Ben Langmaid departing leaving La Roux to be a solo act. Like any strong-willed woman, Trouble In Paradise is La Roux’s comeback from a lengthy period (in pop music’s standard) of absence.
The album constantly teases your ears with synthetic tones while Jackson’s voice weaves in and out of these seductive synthetic sounds. The album oozes with almost synthetic euphoria, but not in a way that makes the joy seem forced. Instead it wraps itself around funky stuttering guitar riffs and pulsating bass beats reminiscent of the ’80s house movement. The album is packed full of luscious layers of pop textures amidst the slightly more eccentric pulsating synth tones. This creates an air of obscurity yet also instant familiarity – something that pop artists strive to do with each song yet often miserably fail and end up with forced catchiness. Instead, La Roux effortlessly and almost unintentionally grasps your attention from the opening funky bass riffs and blasts of synthetic keyboard and ’80s-inspired disco beats present on the opening track “Uptight Downtown”.
La Roux maintains this infectious nature on songs that could almost be described as twins due to their catchiness. “Kiss and Not Tell” and “Cruel Sexuality” both cheekily and surreptitiously deal with the theme of sexuality, but without bluntly screaming “LOOK! LOOK AT ME! I’M NAKED ON A WRECKING BALL!” – although I’m sure “Wrecking Ball” would have been better if there was somebody screaming at Miley Cyrus about getting off that ball. The latter song intelligently discusses the pressures that society places on people who refuse to place a label on their sexuality.
“Sexotheque” picks up the mood after the rather low-key yet beautiful “Trouble In Paradise” – which is a thoroughly adorable love ballad packed with a luscious synth melody. It is a heart-pounding indie-pop anthem with a pulsating drum sample and the kind of synth melody that would make Passion Pit proud, although the laboured pun in the song title is a bit of a turn-off. What La Roux lacks in naming songs, she makes up in creating seductive tunes that would be a perfect match for your ears – if you ears decided to start dating. Continuing with the infectious hype, she launches into the pulsating “Tropical Chancer”. Burgeoning with a rhythmic, pulsating synthetic rhythm, you can just imagine a DJ taking this song and remixing it to produce something that could potentially take the clubs by storm.
There is no part of Trouble In Paradise that isn’t touched by a whimsical and infectious synthetic melody. In the aforementioned case of Love Letters, the synthetic sounds made the album dull and spacey. There was nothing to hook your attention but here, the synth creates a pulsating sense of euphoria that is hard to ignore. What La Roux has created is arguably one of the best pop albums you may hear all year – and this coming from somebody who spends most of his time listening to rock and metal.