2009 will be remembered as the year when women took over music.
No longer confined to manufactured bubblegum or pseudo-soul starlets, the girls have staked their claim over the whole pop kingdom with a legion of synth-armed singer-songwriters, from Lady Gaga to Ladyhawke. Leading the charge for the UK are two very different acts: Little Boots and La Roux (not Florence? – Ed).
Having spent months all over the media and topping the BBC’s annual Sound Of poll, Little Boots should be running things by now. But despite the easy-going catchiness of ‘New In Town’, she’s so far failed to break the top ten. La Roux, on the other hand, should be the underdog. You wouldn’t expect the androgynous looks and sharp falsetto of singer Elly Jackson to easily strike such a chord with the record-buying public, yet massive single ‘In For The Kill’ spent weeks in the upper reaches of the charts. Even the music is a surprise win: where Little Boots’ tunes feel like glossy 21st Century hits, La Roux is pure retro synth-pop.
Of course, everyone’s going a bit ‘80s at the moment, but La Roux’s debut is the ultimate expression of our newfound love for that once-maligned decade. Much of that comes down to Jackson’s low-profile partner Ben Langmaid. He helped introduce her to the likes of the Human League and Eurythmics, whose unmistakable presence is felt on every track. Yet for all the ripping off of their electronic forebears, the pair have created an unforgettable and edgy pop record.
Launching into the album with ‘In For The Kill’ does exactly what the song title promises: kicking off an attack of irresistible tunes and arresting production. Followed in short succession by the equally catchy ‘Tigerlily’ and singles ‘Quicksand’ and ‘Bulletproof’, the band falls into that classic trap of using up their best material rather quickly. However, apart from a couple of later tracks, the album is far from filler and still delivers blow after blow of superb songcraft.
Things may get a bit sparse on true heartbreak story ‘Cover My Eyes’, but rarely does anyone enjoying such a high profile in pop open up with such sincerity as Jackson does here – it’s hardly surprising that she reportedly burst into tears after recording the song. For all the fantastic synth work, it’s Jackson’s incredible ability to be both powerful and vulnerable that leaves those other women staring jealously from the side of the dancefloor.