Mercury Prize-nominated British synth-pop duo La Roux have been making a name for themselves since the release of their single "Bulletproof" this past December. The duo, singer Elly Jackson and dude who does everything else Ben Langmaid, burst onto the scene with their fresh take on electronic music, borrowing synths from the 1980s and adjusting them to perfectly fit in with today's burgeoning music scene. La Roux's music is simple, yet it carries with it a bravado that some bands attain after their third or fourth album. The confidence and swagger of Jackson and Langmaid makes for one effortless and complex electronic music album.
There is absolutely no denying Jackson's gifted vocals -- they are impossible to ignore and they are what makes La Roux such an appealing band even if electronic/synth-pop isn't exactly that beloved a genre. The band has massive crossover appeal, thanks in no small part to their sound -- one that evokes bands like Yazoo and The Human League -- that evokes a delightful nostalgic appeal.
Yet La Roux's sound is entrenched in what the current decade has cultivated, as far as electronic music is concerned. The album kicks off with the track "In For The Kill," with it's staccato drum machines and jumpy synths. It's a perfect barometer for what the album offers instrumentally, and Jackson's vocals -- her high-pitched, sugary sweet wails -- display what she brings to the table, suffusing the song with its complex narrative.
Next up is the album's finest track, "Tigerlilly." The momentum gained by "In For The Kill" spills over to "Tigerlilly," giving the album a head full of steam while it plows ahead, knocking over limited expectations that are, rightfully so, placed on an electronic synth-pop duo from England. "Tigerlilly" really is all over the map -- in the best way possible. Jackson's vocals aren't as high, the song has a darker feel to it and it even features a Vincent Price circa "Thriller" monologue. When the song reaches its chorus, Jackson's finest vocals come out, showcasing her staggering range. When she laments, "And in the crush of the dark / I'll be your light in the mist / I can see you / Burning with desire for a kiss / Pyschobabble all upon your lips" it is indescribably amazing, and we are all left to ponder how it is Jackson can be so dark and brooding and, yet, so charming all at once.
The album breezes through singles "Quicksand" and "Bulletproof," continuing its strong momentum on through the songs "Colourless Colour" and "I'm Not Your Toy" -- two surprisingly complex tracks on their own. The aesthetic appeal of the album far supplants any quick, one-sided labels that can be easily applied to a genre known for some less than overwhelming recent albums. La Roux are far too talented, however, to just slap together some crappy synths and dull lyrics and exploit the fact that they are English to try and pass off a lackluster effort on unsuspecting American audiences.
La Roux is out today on Cherrytree Records (yes, the same record company that pumps Tokio Hotel to the American masses).