Then, over the course of that spring and summer, the songs themselves started to worm their way under my skin. Thanks in part to a transformative Skrillex remix, "In For The Kill" virtually snuck in from behind and - bucking the nadir of the late-noughties trend for chart-toppers by cabaret acts (Kid Rock, N-Dubz) and X-Factor Finalists - lodged itself in the pop consciousness (UK #2 for four straight weeks) as a genuine song-based hit. Slightly symbolically, during the week in which the arguable figurehead of pop's old-guard (Michael Jackson) passed away, its follow-up, the anthemic "Bulletproof", went one better and was sitting pretty at Number One. I relented and bought the self titled debut album; "I'm Not Your Toy" became a particular target for the repeat button, and I simultaneously thrilled to and drowned in the sincere synthiness of "Colourless Colour" (with its deadpan yet oddly moving reference to "early 90's decor") and "Armour Love". 350,000 UK sales, a Mercury nomination and a 2011 Grammy for Best Electronic/Dance Album later, and I was happy to be proved wrong: set aside the window-dressing, and Eighties-electro-pastiche this emphatically was not.
Despite - or perhaps because of - such a concentrated period of seemingly runaway success with a debut, Elly Jackson (the surviving member of and creative force behind La Roux) surprisingly turned out to be the last of the new generation of UK pop-dance female artistes first emerging in 2009-10 (Florence Welch, Marina Diamandis, Ellie Goulding, Little Boots) to come out of the blocks and nail that archetypal "difficult second album". As Jackson herself has observed in recent interviews, a gap of five years between releases - traditionally the preserve of the Kate Bushes of this world - both is and isn't an eternity in the ephemeral, transient mainstream pop industry...embattled as much by the new normal of legitimate, paid-for streaming as that of internet piracy; and arguably struggling for truly bankable hits, and artists with staying power, more than ever.
As those sixty months mounted up, my relationship with La Roux's music came full-circle; the first album having been retired firmly to the shelf, and a real case of "out of sight, out of mind" having set in, my first reaction to news that a second album would see the light of day after all was probably a shrug at best. In an uncanny instance of history-repeating, however, having lived with and played "Trouble In Paradise" repeatedly for the last week, I've delighted in discovering that the drawn-out absence has ended with an album which sounds absolutely inspired.
Perhaps it's partly the uncanny timing (there's something about releases happening at the height of sultry midsummer, maybe, which result in more vivid, more visceral responses), but this feels like a textbook in classically hooky, groove-driven, pop songwriting-alchemy, where not a single ingredient, phrase, or instrument feels superfluous or out of place. You catch glimpses of this all over the album: the "lose, lose, lose/prove, prove, prove" refrain in "Uptight Downtown"; the infectious, positively fizzy "Kiss and Not Tell"; the warm, organic and effortlessly funky breakdowns in "...Tell" (which sounds like a worthy sequel to "I'm Not Your Toy") and the almost-too-perfect, Vampire Weekend-goes-disco workout of "Sexotheque".
The extended electro-pulse of "Silent Partner" notwithstanding (and is it just me who's compelled to sing the words "BAT-MAN!!!" when the first of those keyboard stabs kick in...?!), the overall feel is one of looser, free-er, less hard-edged arrangements than the debut album, that are nevertheless either still danceable at heart or have a club aesthetic. The bass lines are sinewy and elastic, the guitar-licks are scratchy and Chic-like, the effects are nostalgic in a "where have I heard that before"-way without sounding hackneyed (in 2014, no mean feat). While it doesn't reinvent the wheel, even the record's concessions to such familiar tropes as the electronic torch song, or the epic comedown ballad ("Let Me Down Gently" and "Paradise Is You", respectively) manage to feel as if they're doing something slightly different and fresh. It's both a self-assured and engaging album, that both stands up to and rewards multiple, focused listens, so much so that even its admitted minor blips can, on balance, be forgiven. The otherwise fine "Tropical Chancer", for example, appears to start with a sporadically recurrent mastering-hiccup, and proceeds with a chord progression that at times veers perilously close to Daft Punk's "Get Lucky"; while the coda of "The Feeling" just feels subdued, and in context, plain odd.
All in all, however, Elly Jackson and her collaborators can take a bow for having retained so much of the spunk and raw talent that made the La Roux debut a legitimate double-take moment, while also managing to develop and nudge the La Roux sound forwards. While it'll be interesting to hear some of the perkier and sunnier of these songs by the time the tour rolls around in the chill of autumn (tickets are bought, and I can't wait), it has a deserved place in several year-end best-of lists. I've been re-converted in this past week, and whether the follow-up ends up taking as long as another five years to be finished, one thing I can be sure of is I'll be less indifferent to La Roux in future. It's been good to be proved wrong a second time, and I hope that Elly's rewarded.