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Hands

Little Boots

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Album Review

A good year on from catching ears and sparking potentially damaging levels of next-big-thing hype with her first single, "Stuck on Repeat" — a sleek, buzzy, self-fulfilling prophecy of "metaphor pop" with obvious debts to Kylie Minogue and Giorgio Moroder, and a writing/production assist from Hot Chip's Joe Goddard — Little Boots (aka U.K. popstress Victoria Hesketh) finally showed her Hands. When it arrived, her full-length debut amply justified the hype even while slightly disappointing some of her faithful. It's true that only a handful of Hands' cuts can stack up against the stunning "Stuck" in terms of sonic distinctiveness and sheer hooky inevitability, and realistically, despite some clear mainstream potential, it's unlikely to achieve the sort of massive crossover success that some may have envisioned — certainly not in America, where the album's street date was pushed back considerably beyond its June 2009 U.K. release. Frankly, Little Boots isn't doing anything especially musically innovative — as she well knows — and Hands fails to add any buzz-stoking specifics or publicity hooks to her persona beyond the already established basics: her savvy pop-positive hipster cred and playfully retro videogenic appeal, neither of which give her a leg up on the more quirkily personable likes of Robyn, Lily Allen, or Lady Gaga. But that's perfectly fine, because what Hesketh and her highly pedigreed collaborators have accomplished here is nevertheless a surprisingly rare, deceptively difficult achievement: a practically flawless and entirely enjoyable album of pure electronic pop: "pure" in the sense that, apart from the tacked-on (and unlisted) solo piano title track, there are no sounds on this record other than synthesizers (including synthesized drums) and vocals. Also in that, while the synths are often distorted, filtered, and otherwise electronically muddled, Hesketh's voice is to a large extent tonally pure, and generally devoid of specific inflections, coming across not as blank or chilly so much as just slightly anonymous (in contrast to the undeniably distinctive pipes of her oft-compared compatriot, La Roux's Elly Jackson.)

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). As restrained and mild-mannered as she may be, Hesketh at her best manages to make even these obvious generic abstractions feel truly affecting: a neat feat she pulled off on "Stuck on Repeat," finding the spark of aching humanity inside the manifestly mechanical (both lyrically and musically), and one she repeats here on the sweetly soaring "No Brakes," a gorgeous, paradoxically calm testament to the delirious uncontrollability of love. Such is the power of great pop, a power that rests firmly within Little Boots' very capable Hands. ~ K. Ross Hoffman, Rovi

Customer Reviews

Absolutely Amazing!

I first got into Little Boots when iTunes had Stuck on repeat as their single of the week and have been waiting for this album ever since and it was absolutely worth the wait! If you are a fan of pop music then you need this album it matches Kylie at her best, Goldfrapp on their Supernature album 80's brilliance and modern instant classics. Whilst a lot of the tracks are instantly likable there are a couple that I think are definately growers. For me these are ghost, Tune into my heart, and No brakes. Apart from the 3 above i'd recommend instantly downloading any of the others. New In Town, Stuck on Repeat, Remedy, Mathematics, Symmetry and Hearts Collide are all essential songs that no iPod should be without. Congratulations to Little Boots for writing quite possibly the best album of 2009!!!

BRILLIANT!!!!!

This album is fantastic!! Every song is awesome! Favourites are stuck on repeat, remedy, symmetry and hearts collide. Hopefully this album will soar to no 1! It deserves to! :)

Soundtrack to my summer.

I've been waiting for this album since i saw Little Boots live supporting Annie Mac last year. The album is just awesome, buy it. All i can say is, its already "Stuck on Repeat" on my ipod ;) Excuse the pun. ha. A great album with some really catchy songs, well done Little Boots for living up to, and even surpassing the hype that surrounded her at the begginning of the year.

Biography

Formed: 04 May 1984 in Blackpool, Lancashire, England

Genre: Pop

Years Active: '00s, '10s

Little Boots formed in 2007 as a solo vehicle for Victoria Hesketh, the ex-lead singer/keyboardist of English dance-pop outfit Dead Disco. Hesketh's first single under the new pseudonym was "Stuck on Repeat," an infectious club hit produced by Hot Chip's Joe Goddard that arrived on limited-edition 12" white-label vinyl. Released in early 2008, it was followed in August by the limited-edition 7" "Meddle," again produced by Goddard with help from Greg Kurstin of the Bird and the Bee. Little Boots'...
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Hands, Little Boots
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