Release Date: May 7, 2013
Record label: On Repeat Records
Genre(s): Electronic, Pop/Rock, Club/Dance
The sudden and unexpected release of “Motorway” some weeks ago — the first major single in roughly three years from the UK’s Little Boots — signaled a striking shift in direction for the now all grown-up Victoria Hesketh’s namesake. Her first album under the Little Boots moniker, titled Hands, was released back in 2009, at the tail end of an impressive run of electro-dance-pop, which reached back to the early-to-mid part of the decade, with acts like The Rapture, The Presets, and VHS or Beta moving on to Digitalism, Cut Copy, Ladyhawke, and Anoraak (the list goes on and on). But while most of these acts — diverse in sound as they were and are — looked primarily to the 1980s for inspiration, Hesketh belonged to a small subset that consciously embraced a generic/mainstream/post-Britney Spears pop sound.
It’s tough sometimes in pop. Victoria Hesketh, aka Little Boots, knows how fickle this game can be as well as anyone. In 2009, she was flying; top of the BBC Sound Of… poll, ‘one to watch’. A critically acclaimed Top 5 debut album – Hands – and a Top 10 single – On Repeat – were soon added to the haul.
Why doesn't Victoria "Little Boots" Hesketh have her own Robynesque cult of admirers? Both women create sparkling electropop that expertly balances euphoria and darkness, and both can write a ferocious chorus. Yet her promising start – she topped the BBC Sound of 2009 poll and her debut album went top 5 – was followed by a swift fade. Was she just too self-effacing? If so, Nocturnes may compound the problem: it's warm and heartfelt, but the other side of the coin is its streak of wistful self-deprecation.
Still just a horsehair away from being an absolute solo project, singer Victoria Hesketh moves from making dance music that sounds like Kylie Minogue to the hard stuff of nighttime fantasies. On her first Little Boots record, 2009’s Hands, writing and production credits came by way of Hot Chip’s Joe Goddard and Lady Gaga’s RedOne. This time, though, it’s DFA co-founder Tim Goldsworthy, Simian Mobile Disco’s James Ford and Hercules and Love Affair’s Andy Butler who align with Hesketh for stuttering tributes to ’90s house and good old-fashioned four-on-the-floor disco cuts like “Crescendo” and “Beat Beat.
As I hit the play button on Little Boots’ new record Nocturnes, I am immediately welcomed by a delicate hum of low-end synths, which soon develop into relaxed, pleasant disco-pop; yes indeed, this is how I like to start the day. The opening track in question “Motorway” engages with the tried-and-true thematic tradition in pop music of songs about hitting the open road and leaving your cares behind. As a basically nomadic person, this subject matter resonates with me.
Since she emerged on the scene four years ago with the aptly titled “New in Town,” critics have been quick (and lazy) to compare the flaxen-haired Victoria Hesketh to Madonna. But she lacks the personality and blond ambition that catapulted Madge to superstardom in the '80s, and Hesketh's debut as Little Boots, Hands, recalled Kylie Minogue, Annie, and a host of other female pop singers indebted to the Queen of Pop rather than the icon herself. So it's surprising to discover that Little Boots' sophomore effort, Nocturnes, is peppered with songs like “Confusion,” which—melodically, lyrically, and vocally—would fit perfectly on any latter-day Madonna album, and the rollicking dance track “Broken Record,” which even employs one of Madge's favorite lyrical pastimes of quoting a past hit (in this case, Hesketh's “Stuck on Repeat”).
As the title suggests, Little Boots' 2013 release, Nocturnes, is a sultry, late-night, slow burn of an album that finds the British electronic diva building upon the anthemic dance-oriented sound of her 2009 debut Hands. Having carved out a niche on the increasingly crowded dancefloor amongst a gaggle of similarly inclined acts like Ellie Goulding, La Roux, Robyn, and Lady Gaga with such cuts as "Stuck on Repeat," and "Earthquake," Victoria Hesketh aka Little Boots has found a more personal niche within the genre on Nocturnes. Subsequently, though still an infectious listen, Nocturnes is a surprisingly low-key affair.
Victoria Hesketh has either brilliant or awful timing. Recall her 2009 debut: Little Boots had the fortune, it seemed at the time, to emerge solo alongside about six other new electropop acts, all varying combinations of blonde, British, and boshing, with dossiers full of tie-ins, dollops of irony, and a tendency to deliver suspiciously similar talking points about how their dance music differed from the other dance music conquering the Top 40 in their stead. Of those, Lady Gaga went supernova, La Roux has spent three years writing the follow-up to its debut, the "is-it-pop-or-is-it-not?" debate was foisted onto a new group of singers, and all went quiet for Little Boots.
Little BootsNocturnes[On Repeat; 2013]By Ray Finlayson; May 30, 2013Purchase at: Insound (Vinyl) | Amazon (MP3 & CD) | iTunes | MOGTweetDespite it having a few satisfyingly immediate pop songs, Little Boots’ debut album, Hands, never quite brought the stardom it aimed for. More than likely, Victoria Hesketh – the voice behind the Little Boots moniker – was left feeling somewhat starstruck with numerous producers by her side to help write and create the songs on her album. It gave her a chance to try out a few different styles, all while staying inside her pop bubble, but unfortunately, for the listener, it made for a choppy, uneven experience.
Little Boots tramped everywhere back in 2009 promoting her debut album, ‘Hands’. But despite shedloads of hype, Ms Boots, aka Blackpool’s Victoria Hesketh, was just too awkward to be a pop star. Four years later, she’s found her feet by starting her own label and doing things her own way. Album two features some catchy and classy electronic dance music: ‘Motorway’ draws from Italo-disco and the brilliant ‘Crescendo’ seems influenced by the unlikely combo of Giorgio Moroder and Natalie Imbruglia.
Little Boots marched onto the UK dance scene with a handful of singles that led to her 2009 debut album, Hands. The record, replete with disco-stitched synthpop, and its bubbly creator Victoria Christina Hesketh, built a nifty cache of critical praise and commercial success. It arrived at the tail end of a second wave of female pop artists, such as Lady Gaga, La Roux, and Lily Allen, who each used their talents and femininity to hurdle themselves past the likes of manufactured, Top 40 girl charm acts like Britney Spears, Christina Aguilera, and Mandy Moore.
Little Boots operates in an unusual part of the musical landscape: not famous or extrovert enough to challenge a Gaga or Rihanna, not lauded or 'indie' enough to be taken as seriously as a Phoenix or alt-j. Yet like Annie or a modern day St. Etienne, she shares so many of all of those artists' traits that she ought to appeal to a huge demographic. Nocturnes should go a long way to making this a reality.
Back in 2009 Victoria Hesketh was pop’s great new hope. After having beaten Florence and Lady Gaga to become the BBC Sound Of 2009, Little Boots was expected to flourish. Instead, the debut album that emerged that summer, ‘Hands’, sounded slightly unsure of itself. Very much rooted in the shiny, synthetic sounds of 80s pop it was an album that you feel didn’t really represent Hesketh as an artist and a musician.
Pop albums often triumph as cohesive and consistent bodies of work when the artist in question collaborates with one single producer. This is, of course, a liberty-taking generalisation but it is habitually the case that, when presided over by a variety of producers, pop records inevitably end up merely as collections of separate singles, accompanied by filler material. It is possible, for example, that the only thing stopping Kylie from creating the perfect pop album, 25 years into her career, is the fact that on each of her studio releases she records with a long, eclectic list of producers rather than focusing on the coherent, unifying input of one person for the project as a whole.
There’s one pub quiz question I always get right. Where was the first motorway opened in Britain? That’s the Preston by-pass in Lancashire, Northern England where it forms part of the M6. I get bonus points, right? I thought about the M6 when I first listened to Little Boots’s, aka Victoria Hesketh, second album, Nocturnes. Because, like me, she grew up in Lancashire (it’s a good, strong Lancastrian name, Hesketh).
While Nocturnes doesn’t have the immediate impact or supremely sticky quality of Little Boots’, AKA Victoria Hesketh’s, high-caliber dance-pop debut, Hands, it does display a slow-growing (Or is that glowing?) charm that rings true to the album’s muted title. After the excitement of the glossy, cosmopolitan Hands, it was expected, or at least hoped, that Victoria would produce a Hands 2 that would storm up the pop charts and strut into the clubs. This is not that album… The jaunty, carefree single “Headphones”, which dropped before the release of Nocturnes, turned out to be a one-off that is nowhere to be found here.
In 2009 things were looking bright for Blackpool electro singer Victoria Hesketh. Under the moniker Little Boots, she had widely ciculated videos of her playing a visually stimulating sequencer called a Tenori-on. She had released an EP, Acrecibo on IAMSOUND, featuring two tracks, “Meddle” and “Stuck On Repeat,” that both saw success on dance blogs.
In December, Victoria Hesketh told the British magazine DIY that with her second LP as Little Boots, she had “realized what I want to do . . . rather than trying to please other people.” But the allure of crowd-pleasing is obvious on “Nocturnes,” which checks off dance tropes throughout its 10 not-quite-hits.