Sunday, 5 May 2013

Little Boots - Nocturnes


Victoria Christina Hesketh lived a simple Lancashire life with her university trio Dead Disco, and although Hesketh who goes under the pseudonym Little Boots signed to Elektra Records and released her debut album Hands in 2009, she's always felt at home. Elektra catapulted her in to the mainstream with singles "New In Town", "Meddle" and the RedOne produced "Remedy". It seemed as if the synth pop / electro pop artist had reached her desired climb, but having the man whose name manages to hit number one may have sunk deep in to Hesketh's skin. She parted with Elektra due to her urge for creative freedom, something Hands lacked with the full band / production effect rather than Hesketh's singer-songwriter MicroKorg XL attitude. It left the door wide open for Hesketh's direction, something she took back to the drawing board in Lancashire, back to her bedroom in Blackpool with the piano and Tenori-on.

Nocturnes takes a sheer curve from the pop tunes of Hands to dance music and electro-house. Hesketh hasn't dropped the Korg's or her song-writing style; she just takes a step back and smoothens over the edges Hands created. There's no distortion heavy hooks like "New In Town", or beat heavy stylophone tunes like "Meddle", instead Little Boots delivers a completely knew self-released album of danceable electronic tracks with an influence from 90s dance and dance-punk bands from the DFA Records label thanks to Tim Goldsworthy's production. She uses the piano extensively such as on "Crescendo", using the low end keys to effect. It's almost as if I’ve heard this track before, and the same applies to many others on Nocturnes. This comes down to Hesketh's basic understanding of vocal song structure. Her flow seems to drag and follow a pattern of instrumentation that becomes easily predictable.

Little Boots has matured, especially on the darker, ethereal opening tracks like "Motorway". The sun shining Hands debut album has been replaced by what it a club anthem with a beat worthy of late night driving and radio listening. This isn't 3pm on a Tuesday listening, its 11pm Friday night. The hard hitting piano is beautifully parallel to Hesketh's soothing vocal reminiscent of the Robyn / La Roux synthpop Hesketh would rather be associated with, instead of Girls Aloud, The Saturdays and RedOne. It's a shame her vocal work doesn't exactly live up to the expectations of her music. "Confusion" has a grand beat with a funk vibe, with cleaner piano as opposed to the synthesizers she's so often associated with. Her vocal seems to follow a pattern of simplicity, as with "All For You", where one listen is enough to fill your ears up. 

At times Little Boots' sophomore album is a work of electronic art. Take the fourth track "Shake", a track every DJ would be proud of playing. It erupts just moments in to the recording, with an extremely heavy drum pattern and synth hook defining the track. This is Nocturnes standout track and something of an oddball considering the album's piano presence. Again with "Broken Record", Hesketh takes her musical direction even further into the unknown. Referencing her track "Stuck On Repeat", offering up a slice of nostalgia: "I thought it was the last time, our ending was bittersweet. Thought you were out of my mind, instead you're stuck on repeat." The vocal effects and repetition are part of the song's theme; however it's something of an anonymity given the slow tempo of "Motorway" and "Crescendo". Little Boots also gives Daft Punk a run for their money with the funky dance rhymes of "Beat Beat". Influenced by 90s dance, I'm sure Hesketh has spent many nights listening to Discovery.

"Every Night I Say A Prayer" was released for last year’s Record Store Day and makes an appearance on the back side of Nocturnes. The pop track with an unusual piano time signature happens to be one of Hesketh's best tracks to date. It sees her go down a Madonna / Kylie Minogue route with her vocal approach and replicating the dance synthpop sounds of Minogue's Fever. Little Boots won the BBC's Sound of 2009 award, and she hasn't disappointed since winning that overbearing award. Her foot is rooted firmly on the ground with a matured sound and decent independent team behind her. 

The eighth track "Strangers" offers a sense of drama and 'penultimate' build-up as its six minutes enter a state of electronic normality. Hesketh sounds at ease on this track, singing from the heart, for the heart. It takes two and a half minutes to kick in with the synthesizer hooks, but it's worth it. "Strangers" should be the penultimate or final track, however strangely it isn’t. Instead the Kelly Bailey Half Life 2-esque track takes the final position on the grid. It's a decent track, but doesn't sound like an album closer. Hesketh's predictable vocal structure is off-putting on the verse yet again, however this time the chorus erupts in to a frenzy of synths and percussion respectably. 

Nocturnes isn't the return of sensible chart topping pop tracks as some might expect, it's the exact opposite. Little Boots has transformed from an early stage of major record label syndrome where pop and charts come first. The down to earth nature of Nocturnes has been nurtured through years of maturing and releasing spectacular singles. From the cut "Headphones" to Nocturnes standout track "Shake", she manages to create danceable electronic tracks that are a cut above the production heavy and creatively shallow Hands.
~Eddie

7.4

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