At the moment, it really is all about the 1980s. It does not matter if we are talking about post-punk revival or electropop, musicians are turning back to the simple sensibilities kitschiness, and catchy hooks that really characterized the 80s. La Roux is no exception. The band is the brainchild of Elly Jackson (“la roux” being a reference to her red hair) and Ben Langmaid, who both share songwriting and production duties. She is the face of the band, while he is the musical wizard of the band. The arrangement is much like that of Vince Clarke post Depeche Mode in Yazoo and Erasure. Go figure, both bands are definite influence on La Roux. But they are also like early Eurythmics (another obvious influence), with a stoic
Lennox and a mysterious Stewart. Regardless of all the comparisons, La Roux has been tantalizing the British and European airwaves for the past few months.
Finally releasing their self-titled debut, “La Roux” (29 June 2009 in the UK, available as import in the US), La Roux is successfully riding the success of their first two singles. “Quicksand” and “In for the Kill” (which reached #2 on the UK Charts) led the anticipation of this album. Though many fans and critics alike did not know what to expect out of the band, their brand of electropop “pops” out from the speakers and has its own definitive sound. Much like the early Eurythmics (with “In the Garden” (1981) and “Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This)” (1983) albums), there is a constant control of emotion – the music resists become a bubbly, love fest.
Hands down, my favorite track on the album is “As If By Magic”: “Slurring all my words, until something sticks but in this smoky universe my mind keeps playing tricks. And although you’re the only home I know, as if my magic thoughts of you are gone.” Set to music that is sedate, mid-tempo (a bit to slow to dance, but fast enough to “move” to), Jackson’s voice never reaches emotional breakdown or anger; instead she personifies everything stoic and statuesque. The same with “I’m Not Your Toy,” set to music that reminds me of my old Atari 2600. You want Jackson to get angry and passionate as she states, “It’s all false love and affection; you don’t want me, you just want attention.” Instead what you get is plain matter of fact, with some inflection for effect. It is brilliant because of it is counter logic. We expect someone to become angry, we expect someone to want to scream, but when you think about it, if you are over someone, and you’re not their toy, you can be stoic and statuesque, matter of fact, and walk away.
Okay, the production is not overwhelming, but that is the point. There is no gimmicky trick here to get you to keep listening; there are no obvious sound effects to hook you. Your attention is constantly brought back to the actual music – the ingenious arrangements, the distinct vocal styles. From the fast-paced opening “In for the Kill” to the electro epic of “Armour Love” (and then the bonus tracks), what you get is precisely delivered music, a meticulously produced soundscape that is captivating. I am all for the bubbly, synthpop, or darker sides of electropop, but La Roux’s brand of electropop, which does not fit any of the above, is an incredible experience. Their own brand of electropop is a definite tipping of the hat to the past, but also a big, bold step into a new direction.
1. In for the Kill
5. Colourless Colour
6. I’m Not Your Toy
7. Cover My Eyes
8. As If By Magic
10. Reflections Are Protections
11. Armour Love
12. Grown Pains – UK Bonus Track
13. Saviour – iTunes Pre-Order Bonus Track
Keep up with La Roux at their homepagae, MySpace, and Facebook.
Here is their video for “Bulletproof” from their MySpace video page.