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. Who can’t get behind the notion of a road trip fueled by sunny, delightful disco music like that on offer from Little Boots? I’m sure such people exist, but let’s ditch them at home on this particular outing, shall we? Who needs some uptight Grumpy Gus who can’t enjoy some tasteful Italo disco on a warm spring morning? Not me. And that is precisely what Little Boots has prepared for us with Nocturnes. Take one part Sally Shapiro, one part ABBA, and one part Good Humor-era Saint Etienne, and you are pretty much there. So let’s open the sun roof, carefully apply some sun block, and cruise merrily along with Little Boots deep into the heart of her lovely, postmodern disco paradise.
No one is more pleased than I am about the Italo disco revival which continues to gain momentum and proliferate into different styles. Little Boots fits more-or-less into the Italo disco revival movement, although she takes as much from pop singers like Kyle Minogue as she does from Italo disco. The cool, relaxed style that grooves its way out of Nocturnes’ tracks is less haunting and melancholic than Sally Shapiro, and lacks the unbridled euphoria of original Italio disco acts like Ken Laszlo, but it will get people on the dance floor very effectively, and should sound right at home on mainstream British radio.
Possibly the most enjoyable song on Nocturnes is the aptly titled “Crescendo” with its simple, bouncy, compelling synth line and big sing-along chorus. Like most of the tracks on Nocturnes, “Crescendo” drifts along with an air of relaxed confidence. For better or for worse, Little Boots does not get caught up in the teenagerish, melodramatic displays of vulnerability that are common in the work of other Italo disco artists. Some might find Little Boots’ more straightforward, mature version of Italo disco refreshing, but I can’t help but feel that adolescent longing, overblown nostalgia, and youthful enthusiasm are important aspects of Italo disco’s special charm. Italo disco should make you feel like you are thirteen years old at a middle school dance, and you are about to ask the boy or girl you’ve been crushing on if they want to dance with you. Italo disco should be almost excessively romantic; Little Boots is almost too cool to properly hit the Italo disco mark.
But I suppose there is nothing wrong with a little sophistication in one’s disco. Rather than the sweaty-palmed, love-lorn adolescent vibe evoked by many other Italo disco artists, Little Boots comes roaring up in her expensive sports car and offers to take us on a drive through the English countryside. She keeps her car going at roughly the same speed throughout our journey, and the route we take is quite familiar. We return home feeling relaxed and refreshed, in spite of not having seen anything new or unusual. Some of these tracks feel a bit like filler, and Nocturnes could probably use a bit more variation, but if smart, restrained disco pop puts a smile on your face, Nocturnes should do the trick.