Words About Music
La Roux “Trouble in Paradise”
Reinventing synthpop is tricky business. Most of the best synthpop acts flourished and burned out in the 80s, so trying to revamp it is both difficult and natural, as the music world is a naturally cyclical universe of repeating and diminishing trends. Contemporary synthpop reached a notable peak last year with the debut full-length of Scottish trio CHVRCHES. Though La Roux debuted in 2009 with an album, the duo has since become a solo act with producer and songwriter Ben Langmaid leaving in 2011. “Trouble in Paradise” is La Roux’s second album and the first with singer Elly Jackson working by herself. It’s a warm, relaxing throwback to groups like Eurythmics, Yaz, and The Human League, but it’s also a tad vanilla.
I will admit, I never listened to La Roux before deciding to check this album out. Maybe I’m missing out on some context or maybe I’m just not a huge fan of obvious throwback artists, but “Trouble in Paradise” is a well produced but sort of poorly written album. Don’t get me wrong, this is probably the exact album I would play in my car if I’m going on a drive during the summer, but music created for a very specific setting is rarely good. Elly sings repeatedly about sandy beaches and crystal clear water and the Hawaiian breeze, but that’s only relatable at certain times of the year. Luckily for La Roux it’s the end of July, but will I be listening to this come September when I move to cold, snowy Washington? Probably not.
Keep in mind, this is a synth-POP record. Pop music doesn’t need to be deep or thought-provoking, just fun and catchy, and for the most part “Trouble in Paradise” fulfills those qualities, which is why I don’t hate this record. I’m leaning positive because the production is fun, adventurous, and perfectly captures the exact vibe I think La Roux was going for. It’s a mildly sexual, relaxed album that’s perfect for a picnic with the one you love or maybe to play in your car when you’re driving to a music festival. It’s likable.
But, “Trouble in Paradise” is also kind of shallow. It doesn’t call for repeat listens. There aren’t really any songs on here that are so good you’ll have to listen to them again and again ad nauseam. It’s an exercise in specificity that will likely be forgotten about come December when we’re rounding up our favorite albums of the year. But hey, for what it’s worth, it’s a decent pop album that sheds some of the norms you usually find in synthpop by replacing the cold sounds of the 80s with the warmth of contemporary pop music. Put on your favorite sunglasses, slide on a bro-tank, lie down on a towel, and let Elly Jackson tell you about the Sexotheque.
SCORE – 6.7
FAVORITE TRACKS – Uptight Downtown, Kiss and Not Tell, Sexotheque, Tropical Chancer, Silent Partner