La Roux – Supervision
Elly Jackson's third studio album Supervision sorely fails to live up to the standard of her previous records
It’s been six long years since La Roux (alias of Elly Jackson) released a record, and what a record it was. Trouble in Paradise was pure electro-pop sunshine that never let up in its sparkly synth riffs and lyrical relatability. Practically devoid of filler tracks, the album felt as punchy as it did emotionally honest. So it comes as a disappointing discovery that Jackson’s third studio album, Supervision, sorely lacks the zest of its predecessor.
From the get-go, the record is a letdown. The production is tinny and lacks depth, with each tune crying out for a bassline (which bizarrely seem to be lacking across the whole piece). As opening tune 21st Century ambles along, there's a sense that it fizzles out before going anywhere interesting; and it’s a feeling that painfully recurs throughout the album.
The main problem with Supervision lies in its repetition. Songs sound too similar due to a lack of diversity in tempo, and it's often a task differentiating between tracks. Do You Feel and Automatic Driver lazily run into each other with their similar pace and melody, while jangly 80s synths are overused on almost every track. Overall, there's a real sense that La Roux is on autopilot, resulting in a ‘samey’ sound that struggles to hold the listener’s attention.
The stifling production overrides much of Jackson’s talent, constraining her signature breathy vocals. The mix could have easily emphasised Jackson’s unique voice, but instead it feels like a missed opportunity to utilise her natural asset (particularly felt on the chorus of He Rides). This results in her voice blending with other tracks into a lukewarm synth soup that fails to do justice to her raw talent.
Granted, the album is not completely devoid of charm. On Gullible Fool and International Woman of Leisure, two of the record's singles, it's nice to hear Jackson’s classic unusual syncopated riffs and fragile-yet-strong vocals. But these are only glimpses of her brilliance; poor production dominates the record.
Jackson has said of the writing process for this album that she didn’t think much before creating the songs – she wanted to write using a freer approach, but the album would certainly have benefited from more thought surrounding structure and tempo. All in all, it’s a far cry from Jackson’s previous record, which was a carefully crafted piece of 80s electronica armed with an imploring danceability. Trouble in Paradise caused waves in the British pop scene; Supervision is no more than a proverbial plop in the electro-pop pond.
Listen to: Otherside, Gullible Fool, International Woman of Leisure