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by Barry Walters

July 24, 2014

Roots of La Roux

by Barry Walters  |  July 24, 2014

When La Roux's Elly Jackson burst onto the scene in 2009 with flame-red hair; sleek, androgynous outfits; and cool blue synths, there was no way that people were not going to compare her with Annie Lennox of Eurythmics. Songs like "In for the Kill" and her eventual U.S. radio breakthrough, "Bulletproof," drew from unabashedly '80s synth sounds, angst-ridden New Romantic aesthetics, and specifically Anglo soul vocal drama.

But in the protracted five-year interval between the London duo's '09 debut album La Roux and Jackson's new second album, Trouble in Paradise -- an even better sophomore set mostly written with her now ex-partner Ben Langmaid but this time recorded as a solo act -- it became obvious that Jackson has a lot more up her sleeve than an iPod loaded with multiple volumes of Now That's What I Call Synth-Pop. She released Sidetracked, a 2010 DJ set where she revealed her love of obscure Italo-disco, '60s soul, 21st-century EDM, and Gerry Rafferty.

Trouble in Paradise still brings the synths, but this time around Jackson flaunts scratchy rhythm guitar skills clearly honed by listening to a lot of reggae, club funk, New Wave and Chic-derived disco. She overdubs her voice in choirs reminiscent of Bananarama and the Tom Tom Club, and the tempos vary from the ballad "Paradise Is You" to the bumping, protracted banger "Silent Partner." To celebrate her far-broader influences, we've compiled a playlist that pulls them all together. We know you'll spot more than sweet synth dreams.

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