La Roux


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More than a decade into La Roux's career, Supervision is the first album created entirely by the project's founder, Elly Jackson. It arrives six years after the prophetically named Trouble in Paradise, which introduced a warmer sound informed by reggae, funk, and disco. It also marked the departure of Ben Langmaid, Jackson's collaborator on 2009's breakthrough La Roux. That album's synth pop was so laser-focused that any change in the formula would have led to growing pains; fortunately, on Supervision, Jackson actually accomplishes the freewheeling independence that she longed for on Trouble in Paradise. Her first release on her own Supercolour label, and her first after the end of a long-term relationship, it reflects just how free Jackson's heart and creativity are. Loose, easygoing grooves let her shake off troubles that would have thrown her into a tailspin before. The gliding chord progression of "Do You Feel" sounds like the clouds parting, and though there are traces of the defiance that made songs like "Bulletproof" so bracing -- and a loping synth melody that's quintessentially La Roux -- on "International Woman of Leisure," she takes it all in stride and calls the shots. That means Supervision is frequently more lighthearted than Trouble in Paradise, and even more eclectic. Jackson still loves the '80s, but this time she adds sounds from the '70s and '90s to the mix. She's a one-woman Bee Gees on the brightly lit disco of "21st Century," which boasts a synth cowbell that is decidedly, proudly from the 20th century. Jackson revels in decade-spanning musical allusions that keep listeners guessing: Is the strutting guitar on the standout "Automatic Driver" an homage to Nile Rodgers, Cyndi Lauper's "Girls Just Want to Have Fun," or both? That the bounce of "Everything I Live For" is equal parts Happy Mondays, Len's "Steal My Sunshine," and George Michael's "Freedom '90" doesn't make it any less La Roux, or any less engaging. Here and on the expansive, funky album-closer "Gullible Fool," Jackson's confidence is entirely her own. This smoother, slower, happier La Roux takes some getting used to; after all, the high drama of singles like "Quicksand," "Bulletproof," and "Uptight Downtown" was pretty addictive. Nevertheless, Supervision is some of Jackson's most consistent work, and hearing her have this much fun growing into her music -- and herself -- is infectious.

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