Thornton-raised Little Boots, née Victoria Hesketh, has been making waves this past year overseas and at long last her debut album Hands has made its way stateside. Even if after the fact, better late than never I say. Having won a Best New Artist award from influencial NME Magazine and being awarded with the prestigious Critics' Choice Award at The BRITs last year, the Greg Kurstin (Lily Allen, Kylie Minogue) prodigy has raised a few eyebrows in the press. For one, she is outspoken and has publicly critcized many of today's pop artists for lacking character.
There are many fun moments on Hands. First single New in Town, which she clarified in good humour is not a song about homeless people, takes us onto the streets with her where she'll "show us a good time". Many of the tracks fall into the realm of minimal 80's inspired Eurosynth like The Human League and Gary Numan. Earthquake and Remedy are certifiably good and Stuck on Repeat is somewhat Dr. Who-esque, possibly mistakened for a Kylie track. Symmetry features the unmistakable vocals of her idol Philip Oakey (The Human League) and it is a delicious slice of the era Little Boots pays great homage to.
Although her talent is undeniable and the material is there mostly, perhaps the glue that is missing to help these tracks reach that elusive Pop Gold is Hesketh's distant vocals. She perpetually sits in her comfort zone, claiming to want to take us to the dance floor, yet the sincerity in that message is inaudible to the listener aside from the danceable music in which her vocals rest upon. The sometimes sparse arrangements are thoughtful and intricate, but oddly she sounds disengaged and out-of-the-pocket. This is a reminder why there can be only one Kylie Minogue, a master of her genre. I am unsure also how Little Boots might translate as a live act though being a multi-instrumentalist, I'm sure she would have many tricks up her sleeve.
To complicate matters further, current electro-pop darlings "It-Girls" Ke$ha and Ellie Goulding although different from Little Boots, all are commanding much critical/commercial reception right now on both sides of the Atlantic. In all honesty, Goulding has a more polished product and uses her voice more effectively and Ke$ha simply has the catchy hooks and lyrics girls around the world can identify with, even if at times ludicrous. And I've commented on it many a time, but Little Boots' stateside fans will have found a way to acquire Hands digitally already, hindering the album's ability to make a proper impact here.
Despite listings on online retailers indicating the North American pressing of the album might have two bonus tracks, alas review copies from did not include these songs. To hear more Little Boots, visit her official Myspace page. Hands will be released via Warner Music in North America on March 2, 2010. Grade: B