February 5, 2020 La Roux – Supervision (Album Review)
The Grammy Award-winning Synthpop act La Roux returns with its first album in six years, Supervision, which arrives on Friday, February 7th, 2020 thanks to Supercolour Records and Believe Music.
Indeed, it has been six long years since Vocalist Elly Jackson has issued new material under the guise of La Roux. Initially bursting onto the scene as a duo, one that included Producer Ben Langmaid, in 2009 La Roux issued their eponymous debut, an album that was propelled by its hit singles “Bulletproof” and “In For the Kill.” After taking home a Grammy and winning over fans across the globe, tension in Eden hit—quite literally! Langmaid left the fold before the release of 2014’s Trouble in Paradise, which saw Jackson shifting her style to something more full-bodied.
That experimentation continues into Supervision. With six years to develop her newest material, Jackson amasses eight new tracks that have a joyous nostalgia for ‘80s Dance Pop and early ‘90s R&B. Combining the synths from her debut with the fullness of Trouble in Paradise, the latest collection embraces funky, fat bass licks, electronic backbeats, and Jackson’s lofty soprano —but it is not without its flaws.
Supervision opens to “21st Century.” Funky Disco-dusted licks provide a backbone for Jackson’s soprano and build into lush choruses that experiment with thick bass and dissonant textures. This is a theme that continues into “Do You Feel,” and, in truth, throughout the entire album. But on “Do You Feel,” that funktastic bass is layered in harmonies and an emphatic beat, crafting a delicate injection of the 1980s that might harken some back to T’Pau’s 1987 hit “Heart and Soul.”
In one of the collections’ stand-outs, “Automatic Driver,” synths are instead the anchor that allows Jackson to flex her vocal cords and show off her powerful pipes to a further extent than in the track’s predecessors. Continuing to meld an upbeat step with a retro feel, and the second highlight of the LP, “International Woman of Leisure” is a radio-ready bop peppered with more of that dirty bass.
Some sunny Island feels inject themselves into “Everything I Live For,” before a slightly more mellow feel begins the mid-tempo “Otherside.” Here, Jackson flexes the lower end of her vocal range for the first time on this LP, proving that she still has the power to traverse the scales. Next, riding through the hills in Riverside, “He Rides” meanders through another mid-tempo bop before Supervision ultimately ends with the twinkling “Gullible Fool,” allowing Jackson to lament a past relationship alongside some fun piano work.
All of this said, the problem with Supervision is not in any way a lack of talent, or in Jackson’s search for a groovy new niche, but rather there’s never enough distinction between the album’s tracks, lyrically or musically; as if this could be one endless, non-stop bop. For some, that will be a positive and they will embrace the uniformity of the collection, while for others some further delineation and experimentation with sound and textures will be needed to provide a truly fulfilling experience.
With largely vapid lyrics and little that truly strikes at the heart of the listener, the album feels a bit under-developed. It’s very obvious that Jackson is immensely talented, she just needs to explore a little further to find a signature that will delve a little deeper (or pounce with more oomph) than the tracks that encompass Supervision. For now, stream “Automatic Driver” and “International Woman of Leisure” for the best representations of an LP that fails to be, pardon the pun, bulletproof. As such, Cryptic Rock give Supervision 3 of 5 stars.