Here’s a minor milestone for you: La Roux’s debut album is now five years old. It doesn’t quite seem it, probably because most of the British group’s accolades came well after the album’s release: a sleeper US radio hit (“Bulletproof”) in 2010, a surprise Grammy in 2011, what seemed at the time like the most success any of their ‘80s-throwback synthpop peers would attain without becoming Lady Gaga. (Another sign 2009 was a very different place: Lady Gaga used to be seen as La Roux’s peer.) But the success was short-lived; “Bulletproof,” despite becoming La Roux’s biggest hit both worldwide and back home in the UK, didn’t get a substantial follow-up, and new material was sparse. “Unless we manage to write a record in two weeks I don’t think there will be anything in terms of a second record for a while,” vocalist Elly Jackson told NME – again – five years ago.
After all that time, “Let Me Down Gently” is the first that’s been heard from the new record (not counting some live material in 2013), tentatively titled Trouble in Paradise. It’s far less splashy than most of La Roux: an ambivalent-attached breakup narrative, like a morose flip of fellow synthpopper Robyn’s “Call Your Girlfriend.” The track sounds it too: flanged synth washes, moody melodies, brooding background vocals, Jackson pained and aloof amid it all – singing, crucially, with little of her usual quirk – and, the clincher, a false stop in the middle before a full-on breakdown, sax and tears on the dance floor.