[2 March 2010]
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. Little Boots, aka Victoria Hesketh, is only 24 but has already lived a lifetime of musical experience and rejection. A musician since childhood, Hesketh got her first taste of the entertainment world’s cruelty when she was rejected for the UK’s Pop Idol. She bounced back but changed genres, playing in a jazz trio. This was before her stint in a big band, which was before her stint in electropunk outfit Dead Disco. It was Greg Kurstin (the Bird and the Bee) who first suggested Hesketh go pop, which she did in her pajamas via YouTube. From there, it was a fast fairy tale for Hesketh, who has been wowing crowds and winning new fans on shows like Jools Holland ever since.
One listen to Hands will tell you why. Hook-laden and full of up-to-date beats, Hands is one heck of an introduction to Hesketh. In fact, Hesketh even does the job of introducing herself by way of the opening track, “New in Town.” Starting with record skips and fades, Hesketh delivers the lyrics in a catchy pop-rap style as the verse builds to the chorus promising: “I’m gonna take you out tonight / I’m gonna make you feel alright”.
Hesketh delivers on that promise many times over. While there’s an impressive array of musical influences on Hands, the songs are all united by Hesketh’s impressive electropop synth work. Clearly, she’s familiar with a variety of club scenes and has been able to successfully pop-ify them into a unified album. Hesketh is at her best when she’s crafting hooks, and the best songs on Hands are therefore the ones with the strongest hooks. “Remedy”, “Click”, and “Tune Into My Heart” stand out the most for that reason. “Remedy” is the requisite dance track dedicated to celebrating the power of dancing. “Click”, chock full of synth sweeps, laments “I thought you were a condition no one else could treat” as the chorus litanies the ways in which the narrator thought she clicked with her lover. “Tune Into My Heart” wins extra points for the charming innocence that infuses it.
While everyone is sure to have a different favorite from Hands, there are no clunkers. Sure, there are special treats like a guest vocal from Phil Oakey (the Human League), but overall, if you like Little Boots, you will love Hands. And not liking Little Boots is like not liking fun.