When Little Boots‘ early tracks began to trickle across the blogosphere, she caught my (and a lot of people’s) attention because she was shamelessly poppy but with quirks to set her apart. However, I was concerned that once she released a full album, the leaked songs would be the best ones and the rest of the album would be filler.
Now that Hands is out, my fears aren’t unfounded, but they haven’t been entirely proven true, either. Little Boots (née Victoria Hesketh) has the potential to become a household name with this album if it’s marketed right. “Meddle” was already used in a Victoria’s Secret ad, and the buzz surrounding her has seeped from the blogosphere niche to mainstream outlets. She’s poised to be a star.
Therein lies the problem.
When “Stuck On Repeat” was released on her Arecibo EP last year, we finally felt like we knew what Goldfrapp remixing Kylie Minogue would sound like. It was six minutes of thumping synth that contained very few vocals, but the ones it did have were icy and seductive. The version that made it to Hands is half the length and doesn’t have any breathing room. Hesketh doesn’t let her voice hang in the air. There’s not a beat between the last note of the verse and the first syllable of the chorus. It’s still catchy and could become one of the most deserving summer jams in recent memory, but it’s not the stunner it could have been.
Let me say this, though: Hands is a good album. There’s not a bad song on it, and there are some standouts. It’s not the cerebral dance experience Roisin Murphy and Matthew Herbert songs are. But it definitely nods to each of these artists, and that’s not a bad amalgamation to be.
Take “Remedy”, which wouldn’t sound out of place in Minogue’s Fever. From the rising notes of the opening to the metaphor of love as a dancefloor, this song is pleading to have a choreographed dance set to it. And it deserves it. “No more poison killing my emotion/I will not be frozen/Dancing is my remedy, remedy/Stop praying ‘cause I’m not, not playing” isn’t deep, but it fits the tone of the song (and album) perfectly.
“Meddle” is still an irresistible track and probably the closest Little Boots comes to Roisin Murphy territory. With a crunch bass line, some unearthly electronics in the background and an eerie choir of men during the bridge, it’s the kind of pop song that’s interesting to listen to again and again.
“New In Town” , the album’s lead single, is equally as fun. Once again, her feelings about the song’s love interest are best expressed in terms of having fun and dancing the night away. On “Symmetry”, she has so much fun with the different settings of her synthesizer that it’s hard to keep track of how many beats are weaving in and out at any single time. Hesketh possesses a soft voice that can easily be kittenish, but more often than not she pulls it back in the mix, so that she sounds like part of the background noise. Rarely are her vocals pushed forward in the mix, and I think this was a smart decision. On most tracks she’s not the focal point of the songs. In fact, her duet with The Human League’s Phil Oakey on “Symmetry” is as much his song as it is hers. By allowing herself to blend into the electronic atmosphere she’s created, she’s actually set herself apart from most of the dance hits you’ll hear on the radio.
Hands might not rise to the level of Goldfrapp’s catalog or shake up the music world all that much. But it deserves to the be de facto party album of 2009. As long as Hesketh continues to keep her pop interesting and maintains this level of fun, she’ll be worth listening to. And if she indulges her ambient side once again, her next release could surpass this one.