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If you cast your minds back to the not-so-distant shores of 2009 you may remember 3 British pop artists that were poised for stardom: Little Boots, Florence & The Machine and La Roux. These were the heady days when 'hype' seemed like an indestructible path to glory - a blogger need only fart the name of a buzz band and suddenly they were on the fast track to success. The 'BBC Sound Of' polls proclaimed a preordained greatness about those lucky enough to be bestowed with the glory of its higher judgement. But things didn't go exactly to plan that year. Poll winner Little Boots' album tanked and she was promptly dropped. Florence, third on the list, took on the world, twice, all the while sounding like an army of hysterical bleating goats heading for the slaughterhouse (Calvin Harris being the butcher, of course). And then there was La Roux, the unlikeliest pop star of the three - her androgynous looks, surly attitude and speaker-piercing falsetto aren't your typical pop fodder - but 2 million album sales, 6 million singles sales and 2 Grammy awards later, and she was firmly placed as a global pop phenomena.

But since then there has been nothing. No new music for 5 years. Whilst it's no Chinese Democracy it's still pretty long time for a young artist signed to a major label. In a recent interview, she admitted that the success of her debut album came at a price. A severe case of anxiety took hold in which she lost her ability to sing. Whilst this was eventually recovered thanks to the help of a performance anxiety specialist, there was also a split from her long-term song writing partner Ben Langmaid with whom she had a very close relationship. Trouble In Paradise, in this context, seems to be an apt title for the tumultuous beginnings for this second chapter. Despite these troubling times, Jackson has written a colourful, tropicana-pop delight, packed full of funky grooves and catchy melodies to atone for her long absence.

The first thing to notice about Trouble is that the falsetto has almost completely gone. It's a courageous move to remove her most recognisable feature and it ultimately pays off. Greater dynamic shifts are now possible between songs. She can switch from deftly cool on 'Tropical Chancer', a song which sounds not too dissimilar to a slowed down Todd Terje remix of Diana Ross, to pointed anger on the following track 'Silent Partner', an undulating 7 minute electro-pop epic. It's a bit like someone who's discovered an all you can eat buffet for the first time - she's gonna try them all now that she can.

And it's not just her voice that has been given a makeover. Whilst the eponymous debut had a certain crisp, tinny charm with its bleepy synths and static-crushed beats, this time the rhythm section is hefty and full of swagger. On opening track 'Uptight Downtown' a live bass struts along like Barry White after a trip to the bakery, heavy but full of funk, whilst a cheeky guitar sample of Bowie's 'Let's Dance' (we assume it's a sample, if not, it's theft) adds a glossy disco shimmer to the proceeding. Synths tend to augment rather than dominate, with a shift toward a standard live band set up - guitars, bass, live drums - and this is most successfully executed on the brilliantly titled 'Sexotheque'. Named after a sex club in Montreal, the syncopated drum beat and cross rhythms of the guitar and bass lock into a groove that seems certain to never lose its grip. But what the joyous bounce belies is a grim tale of an unfaithful lover and his suffering girlfriend: "She wants to know why he's not home/Oh that money, money, money I bet/He's at the Sexotheque." Yeah, it's sad, but it's so catchy that it's impossible not to sing along with a huge grin across your face.

The arching theme of "the feeling of emptiness in a place where there was once joy" isn't always as prominent as 'Sexotheque' but this isn't too much of a problem because, for the most part, the lyrics are strong. 'Uptight Downtown' deals with the London riots in 2011 (Jackson's from Brixton, one of areas affected) with an interesting mix of empathy and wit. One particular line, which references the mass looting of trainers from JD Sports, raises a wry chuckle: "The streets are lined with people with nothing left to lose/When did all these people decided to change their shoes?" But she doesn't stray too far before returning to personal themes. Whilst Jackson has tried to dodge questions about her own sexuality, songs like 'Cruel Sexuality' suggest that she is still willing to write about it (if anything, it's the sexual orientation of her lover, not Jackson herself, that appears to be the issue - "You make me happy in my everyday life/Why do you keep me in a prison at night"). In the context of the album her sexuality is of little interest though. Unlike an album like Channel Orange where the rarity of LGBT performers in mainstream R&B and hip-hop made the explicit references to a same-sex relationship an interesting dichotomy, La Roux exists within a lineage of British pop music with a rich and successful history of LGBT artists. It's a complete non-issue.

There are moments on this record which do fall short. Sometimes Jackson's voice, which often stays at a middle register, can get a little lost in the mix. 'Kiss and Not Tell' is like a mojito without the rum - it's sweet but it lacks a certain kick. It's one of the few places where the falsetto might have come in handy. Conversely, the one major outing for the falsetto on 'The Feeling' sounds strained and really shouldn't have been used, even as a B-side. Other than this, Trouble In Paradise is a confident return which improves on the first record. Whilst the singles might not be as big as 'Bulletproof' or 'In for the Kill', Jackson is offering up something much more substantial and satisfying this time around. Out of the 3 pop stars that came to prominence in 2009, Jackson is by far the most compelling. Even if she doesn't match the heights of Florence, she can rest easy knowing she's made much better records.

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