She Could Use One
One has to wonder what the logic was behind delaying the stateside release of Victoria “Little Boots” Hesketh’s debut album Hands for so long (it made its way to the rest of the world last Summer). During that lag time, we’ve seen similar, superior femme-pop albums from the likes of Annie, La Roux, Florence and the Machine, even a new supplemental album from the ubiquitous Lady Gaga make their respective dents on the blogs and the charts. To strut Little Boots out now almost begs American listeners to compare and contrast, not to mention unfairly paints her as a coattail rider to newcomers when in reality, her demos and singles were making the rounds online before any of their recent efforts. Nevertheless, it matters not who does it first, only who does it better. And despite a valiant effort and some tenuous highlights, Hands can’t help but be left in the dust by her peers.
Maybe she’s trying too hard to please everyone? Hesketh likes to profess her passion for making unapologetic pop songs, no more, no less. However, with her frequent online videos of DIY covers and a laundry list of hip collaborators (Hot Chip’s Joe Goddard and Lily Allen producer Greg Kurstin each had a spoon in this overflowing pot), she was coming off like a new indie pin-up girl. Now there’s nothing wrong with mixing the two worlds; after all, Annie has made her career doing that. But with Hands, that perfect mix never occurs. The differing styles and sounds on the album simply orbit, collide into and then repel off of each other.
To make matters worse, her poppier songs here, though more numerous, aren’t all that strong. The album’s lead off single “New in Town” is so shrill and by the numbers that it has been eclipsed by nearly every remix that has been done of it. Those remixers may have been high profile blog-house acts like Fred Falke and The Golden Filter, but still. “Remedy” sports a relatively lively club stomp, but Hesketh doesn’t have the vocal strength to carry it, quickly gagging on its pseudo Gaga-centrisms. Her biggest success in this department comes from a duet with The Human League’s Philip Oakey in “Symmetry,” but one won’t be faulted for thinking it would still sound ten times better if it was an actual Human League song with Susanne Sulley singing in Little Boots’ place.
Little Boots fares much better when she actually tries for an indie aesthetic, though disappointingly the best examples of that are songs that we’ve already heard: “Meddle” is better than all of Lily Allen’s last album put together with its mischievous moxie and Hesketh’s signature song, “Stuck on Repeat,” is equal parts Hot Chip and Kylie Minogue in it’s infectious disco cheekiness. Of course, the clipped edit of the song on record pales to it’s original, seven-minute single version.
Little Boots could eventually make a killing in the realm of pop. She just needs to decide what kind she wants to shoot for. If you’re looking for the disposable kind with mere moments of potential, Hands is a safe bet. But after the unjustifiably long wait to hear it over here, most of her potential fans won’t want to hear disposable, they’ll want indelible, like all good music should be, pop or not.