Written by Molly Boekenheide
It’s been five long years since the La Roux duo topped the charts with their infectious hit, “Bulletproof;” that’s five painfully long years that their devoted following waited for new material. Well, there’s good reason for that…La Roux has made some changes. Singer Elly Jackson split with producer Ben Langmaid to discover herself as a solo artist, and she’s just now ready to start fresh. Jackson/La Roux’s new sound can be found on her just-released solo album, Trouble in Paradise. It’s masterful.
Trouble in Paradise slyly fades in with the curiously chipper “Uptight Downtown,” which, despite its disco-infused beat is reportedly about the 2011 London Riots. Jackson tells of the chaos in which the city was left, bemoaning, “Streets are lined with people with nothing left to lose, lose, lose…” She then makes a cheeky reference to reports of looters who tried on shoes before taking off with them: “when did all these people decide to change their shoes, shoes, shoes…”
Next up is “Kiss and Not Tell,” a blissfully coy track about a forbidden love. Jackson’s vocals float weightlessly over bouncy, bubbly instrumentals, “Along the path, feelings I can’t tell, makes me want to kiss and not…And all I want is to come out of my shell, makes me want to kiss and not tell…”
“Cruel Sexuality” reveals the inner-workings of an identity crisis, with Jackson conflicted about the person that she must become in order to be successful. “I don’t even know myself, cause I’m becoming someone else…where is rationality when I’m lost inside a dream? I say, just use me…” The track has a bit of a, “Do What You Want with My Body” feel to it, but instead, it attempts a more poetic approach.
“Paradise Is You” is a brilliant piano-based ballad that will set your heart aflutter. After a long fade-in, a Coldplay-meets-church choir mood ensues, with love lyrics that are just dripping with sincerity. An easy contender for the best, trendy wedding song…ever, Jackson gushes, “When all the roads ahead of me stop looking new, my paradise is you, my paradise is you…when everything I know is slipping out of view, my paradise is you, my paradise is you, you, my heaven is you…”
La Roux switches gears suddenly, launching into “Sexotheque.” “He wants to know what it feels like to mess around, mess around…she wants to know what it feels like to settle down, settle down…” The track’s vibe is like a Fitz & the Tantrums B-Side, complete with atmospheric flutes, steady percussion, and a chorus that just won’t quit: “She wants to know why he’s not home, oh, money, money, money on him…he’s at the Sexotheque…”
After that reality check, La Roux transitions into the dark, hypnotic “Tropical Chancer,” musically fit for a day on the beach, but with lyrics that cry of betrayal. Balancing the sassy, go-getter attitude of the duo La Roux of old, with the current, softer and wiser solo La Roux, it tells a story of a vacation fling gone horribly, horribly wrong: “Can’t take the money, and the food that’s in my hand, but you have to understand that he’s a dreamer…Living and laughing in a mind you can’t believe, this place turns honest men to thieves…” Be warned; “Tropical Chancer” WILL get stuck in your head (seriously, I’m going on day three now), but it is well worth it; the track is an absolute stand-out!
“Silent Partner” is a throwback to the glory days of 80’s pop with a modern-day spin; jumpy, staccato, Tegan & Sara-esque vocals embedded into a robotic beat. “Lay Me Down Gently” has a smoother feel to it complete with heartbreaking lyrics begging for salvation; “Turn me into someone good, that’s what I really need…”
The glitchy, synth-heavy “The Feeling” wraps up the brief album with Jackson’s yearning for inner-peace resonating loudly; “On the outside I might seem strong but, really I’m, I’m just a loner…I don’t believe you ever really grow up, I’m just a child whenever you show up…” Okay, so I can seriously identify with this…
This album is the evolution of an artist. It’s real, it’s insightful and it’s Elly Jackson’s own vision. La Roux flies solo, and soars!
album cover credit: universal music