Its been five years since Elly Jackson graced the airwaves with her self titled Grammy winning debut album, and what a tumultuous time it has been for the London born singer/songwriter since then. From starting to write and record the follow up album in 2011/12, to her acrimonious split with partner in crime Ben Langmaid due to “artistic differences”, Jackson has went on to record Trouble In Paradise as a solo artist, assisted by producer/engineer Ian Sherwin, and is due to go out and tour her new work in the UK at the tail end this year.
Jackson who was rumoured to have been working with Nile Rodgers at some point during the conception of this project gives the listener a hint that this may indeed have been the case in the albums opener Uptight Downtown, which features aresurgentRodgers like guitar riff not unlike the one performed on “Daft Punks” stellar hit Get Lucky that predominantly jingles through the track making this a catchy opener for her new collection. Kiss And Not Tell opens with a tinkling keyboard sound akin to a Sega or Nintendo video game backing track, however builds and flourishes into a happy-go-lucky melody strangely reminiscent of a Caribbean getaway tune.
Our flame haired songstress throws us a curve ball on the next track Cruel Sexuality with a funk bass line in a rather unconventional “Un La Roux” like way, but one which stitches itself seamlessly into a 80s sounding synth chord progression and a rather ingenious little doo doo doo sound that confuses as to whether its a sampled and manipulated Jackson vocal or a modular synth discovery. The track further develops into La Roux by numbers though, which isn’t a criticism by any means, its just a smidgen on the predicable side. Paradise is You takes us back to our holiday theme with an opening line “Walking along on a sunny beach” featuring echoing vocals, piano melody and distant drums making this a really beautifully crafted, mid tempo number which even makes the listener chilled out and sends them to some far off shore in their minds eye.
Following on from this, Sexotheque does nothing to bring you back home as it cheerfully plods along in the same holiday atmosphere as a few of the fore running tracks. A familiar trait so far in this collection is Jacksons use of the trademark Nile Rodgers style Riff which again features prominently through Tropical Chancer but intertwines astutely with the sonic assemblage of analogue electronics and computerised steel drums, that gives us another insight into the atmosphere that was sought to have been created and achieved so successfully by Miss Jackson, her angelic voice gracefully marrying the synthetic sound structures. Silent partner starts to rush the meandering pace of the album with a n electro bass line reminiscent of Erasure’s B side Paradise and adds that bit of an edge to the proceedings with sinister lyrics and simplistic future retro sounds that don’t “over egg the pudding” and keep this track sounding like its transporting you back to the mid eighties, Miami Vice jacket and Ra-Ra skirts in tow.
The lead single from the album, the emotive Let Me Down Gently, finds itself asthe penultimate track on Trouble In Paradise , a track that displays the maturity that may well have been found with the hiatus between albums as it displays a thoughtful well written and formed composition that evokes a cathartic feeling within and exhibits how a great mid tempo song can build from something halcyon to an expression of intertwining instrumentation progressing through each verse, subtly arranging layers and embedding the Sax so it actually sounds complimentary and doesn’t smack you straight in the face like the vast majority of artists who employ it over zealously.
Thankfully the weak link arrives at the end of this album by the way of The Feeling. The impression it gives is that eight tracks made the final cut with ease but there had to be that extra one or two needed to complete an album full and this was the one that was scooped from the cutting room floor, pieced together quick smart with a cheap and nasty drum machine loop sounding like a bag of Walkers Cheese and Onion being tapped and to add that touch of ambience a choral synth creation akin to an Enya berceuse which really sounds just as tiring I might add.
For Jacksons Sophomore adventure she has shown there to be no second album syndrome in fact the progression from La Roux shows a degree of maturity with regard to the “more is not always better” adage and not cramming all the space in the music with electronics which lets her writing breath. Listening to this made me smile, in fact it chilled me right out (for a change) and I can guarantee that it’ll make an appearance on my holiday play list as its a pretty cool collection indeed. It evokes thoughts of those lazy Caribbean retreats, Mojito in hand and that mellow feeling that comes with lazing by shimmering waters and golden sands. Pretty amazing what an Album title can provoke thought wise really, but back to real life and Trouble in Paradise is a testament to Jacksons hard work and perseverance in her artistic direction.
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