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CD review: La Roux's Trouble in Paradise

Polydor; Release Date: July 18, 2014

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In music, the underground eventually rises above ground. Local bands eventually become national stars; songs written in a bedroom are heard in major league stadiums and small-time singers eventually end up on Top 40 radio. British singer, La Roux just released her second album Trouble in Paradise, which attempts — maybe not intentionally — to reverse that trajectory.

La Roux here sidesteps away from the hyper-active sound of her self-titled debut album. Though both albums trade in the idea of '80s synthpop, that exact definition of "pop with synths" is stretched to varying end with her two albums.

La Roux featured a chiptune-like vintage video game charm with sounds that could have come from an old Nintendo game, where Trouble in Paradise skews closer to the Miami Vice-esque soundtrack of the film Drive. But for La Roux the songs, no matter the subject matter or mood, just pulsate and writhe for too long. A song locks into a groove and rarely, if ever, deviates from it.

La Roux creates serviceable '80s pastiche, but this style works better when the music fits an evening drive instead of cruising windows down on a summer afternoon. "Silent Partner" and "Let Me Down Gently" are more darkly ponderous and appealing than the more saccharine tracks that dominate the album's first two-thirds. The breakthrough single "Bulletproof" from La Roux's last album took time to reveal itself, but Trouble in Paradise, at least right now, sounds content without assuming such a hit will reveal itself.

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