Release Date: Mar 2, 2010
Record label: 679/Atlantic/Elektra
Genre(s): Rock, Dance, Pop
It can be all too easy to put all dance music into a single boom-boom genre. In fact, it’s only when an extraordinary artist comes along that we remember dance music can be not only good but even intelligent. Little Boots’ debut Hands is one of those rare albums that triggers such a reminder. Hands is even more of an accomplishment when one is introduced to it by way of Little Boots’ bio.
Although the album, in typical 21st century pop fashion, features a plethora of producers -- including Goddard, chart champion (and Gaga accomplice) RedOne, the increasingly omnipresent Greg Kurstin (Allen, Minogue), and Bertine Zetlitz collaborator Fred Ball -- and a corresponding variety of musical moods -- the brash and buzzy strut of "New in Town," the decidedly Hot Chip-y clank'n'chug of "Meddle," the darkly glossy trip-pop of "Hearts Collide" -- they seem to have condensed on a consistent, elegantly simple synth pop vibe that sets up a sonically unified, satisfyingly streamlined listen. The directness and consistency of the album's production, vocals, and stylistic approach leave a great deal of the focus on the songs themselves, which is good, because songs are arguably Hands greatest asset: a solid batch with several standouts (mostly the singles, including the stomping, club-ready "Remedy" and the absolutely massive-sounding "New in Town," along with the indomitable "Stuck on Repeat") but no space-filling duds or truly weak links. The songs, too, have a distinct conceptual purity, marrying effortless melodic mastery to a kind of lyrical facelessness, often eschewing any kind of personal specificity for general-purpose love/relationship commentary delivered in extended metaphorical conceits about driving ("No Brakes"), broadcasting ("Tune into My Heart"), medicine ("Remedy" -- which is technically, and fittingly, about dancing, not love), and math (not only the bouncy "Mathematics," a treasure trove of senseless arithmetic and algebra jokes ("your x is equal to my y"), but also "Symmetry," a duet with Human League's Philip Oakey that takes on geometry and the general concept of opposition).
She’s been called ”new Kylie” and ”little Britney,” but U.K. sprite Little Boots thinks she’s more underground than that. One video even finds ?her in a backless minidress, dancing with prostitutes, gang members, and homeless people. Still, on Hands, musically she’s great ?at taking superstar glamour to the streets: It’s megaclub ?gold for the broke-ass rest of us.
If – and it’s a hefty ‘if’ – there is any substance to the idea of 2009 playing host to a discernible trend in British female singers, it can probably most accurately be summed up like this: that the three BBC Sound Of 2009-tipped artists people are basically thinking of - Little Boots, Florence And The Machine and the actually-a-duo-not-that-anybody-cares La Roux – are all bet hedgers of the first order, dabbling a toe in the waters of indie cred, but – quite clearly – having every intent of saying “ta-ra” if and when the adult contemporary market finally caves. That's one theory anyway, and surely better than, I dunno, them all liking sparkly clothes. Certainly there’s a degree of hostility towards all three of the above mentioned acts around these parts, some idea that their Vice/Skins/NME-friendliness is all a savvy manipulation, step 4.
"Pop" is easy to write and even easier to say, but it's not so easy to pull off successfully. Victoria "Little Boots" Hesketh has been outspoken in embracing the term. "A pop song is just this three-and-a-half-minute nugget, but it can be so powerful," the synth-toting songstress from Blackpool, England, told Carson Daly the night of her first L.A. show.
In January’s A Question of Sound column – essentially a review of other people’s tips for 2009 – I was pretty enthusiastic about Little Boots’ chances of success. Her debut single Stuck On Repeat , which was co-written and produced by Hot Chip’s Joe Goddard, had just featured in Pitchfork’s Top 100 Singles of 2009, providing Little Boots with instant indie credibility. Meddle was another promising track and after making waves at SXSW, the signs looked good for Victoria Hesketh, the 25 year old Lancastrian behind the Little Boots moniker.
Boot it to the curb British electro-popper Little Boots’ full-length U.S. debut, Hands, falls flat, but it’s not for lack of trying. On paper, so much about it seems promising: There’s a collaboration with Lady Gaga producer RedOne (“Remedy”); a duet with Human League vocalist Philip Oakey (“Symmetry”), a sly nod to Boots’ obvious New Wave influences; even a clever song inspired by a Sylvia Plath poem (“Mathematics”), for the literary types.