20 Best Pop Albums of 2014

From Taylor Swift’s platinum victory to Kitten’s under-the radar triumph, the year in huge hooks

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La Roux, 'Trouble in Paradise'

13. La Roux, 'Trouble in Paradise'

With its aching love amid swaying palms, "Paradise Is You" sounds like the ballad playing in the beach scene of a Hollywood weeper. Which is to say, it doesn't sound like La Roux circa 2009, in which androgynous dreambot Elly Jackson fronted partner Ben Langmaid's frigid Eighties simulacrum. The shift reflects the pair's split, with Jackson taking control and adopting a friskier sound that draws on funk, reggae and calypso. Warmly layering her voice, she directly addresses her conflicts and frustrations on concisely melodic synth romps ("Cruel Sexuality," "Kiss and Not Tell"). But the album's boldest turn comes on "Silent Partner," as Jackson proclaims matter-of-factly over a wiry bass throb, "You're not my partner/No, you're not a part of me." With Trouble in Paradise, the dramatic universe La Roux inhabits goes from iced-over to a full simmer. C.A.

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