Wednesday, September 9th, 2009
Stuck On Repeat
Review of Little Boots' Hands
MySpaceSo Speech Debelle’s Speech Therapy won the Mercury Prize. Guess that shows all the predictors, pundits and bookies who were all Florence this and Bat For that what’s what. After all, before the nominations were even announced back in July, one of the odds-on favourites to win was Little Boots, and she wasn’t even nominated. That’s sort of how 2009 has seemed to go for Blackpool’s Victoria Hesketh – filled with immense expectations that were probably impossible to meet, and thus she was destined to be considered a disappointment no matter what she actually delivered.
And that’s really not fair. Taken entirely on its own merits, without any of the attendant buzz, her debut album Hands is a deliciously catchy collection of slick synth-pop that’s not especially deep, but is also never as vacuous as it could probably get away with considering its primary purpose is encouraging butt moving, not chin scratching. And perhaps that’s where the disappointment comes into it. I suspect that at the start, when Hesketh was making her name with cute and quirky bedroom performances of covers and originals on her YouTube channel, there were some expectations that she could be the thinking indie kid’s diva, crafting soundtracks for the skinny jean set to move awkwardly to.
Even though the initial singles that went onto her Arecibo EP were hardly lo-fi, they had a certain quality – like the slightly lurching, off-balanced throb to the beat in “Stuck On Repeat” – that seemed to imply that was a promise that she could deliver on. So for Hands to be as big and bold as it is could well have been something of a shock. I was certainly surprised at how unabashedly glammy and glossy it is – even after seeing her in full-on dance diva mode at SxSW – but it certainly hits my sugar tooth just right and has been in heavy rotation through most of the Summer. It may be a rather conventional dance-pop record but the hooks are still huge. Occasionally I wonder if I should be feeling guilty about enjoying it so much but if loving “Symmetry”, the duet with The Human League’s Philip Oakey, or the gorgeous shimmer of “Tune Into My Heart” is wrong then I don’t want to be right.
That said, it’s with the final, hidden track of Hands – the title track, no less – that you get a taste of what Hesketh sounds like away from the dance floor, and maybe what the album could have been. It’s a simple track, just voice and piano that contains more genuine personality than much of the rest of the album. It seems like a trifle, a little bit of Kate Nash flair, but somehow sticks long after the album is done. Don’t get me wrong – I have no complaints about Hands at all, but if the next record finds Hesketh stepping out of the disco and going for a contemplative wander through the quiet streets of the city, that might not be a bad thing at all.
In addition to Arecibo, Little Boots’ North American discography contains the Illuminations EP but not the full-length – it’s been given a vague “Fall 2009” target release date but the fact that it hasn’t hit the streets on the even of her first North American tour may be more evidence that some aren’t finding her to be the massive success they were expecting. Savages. Regardless, the jaunt begins this coming Monday night here in Toronto at Wrongbar and I am pretty certain that show will not disappoint in any way.
Video: La Roux – “I’m Not Your Toy”
Spinner talks to Manic Street Preachers’ James Dean Bradfield about the problems that beset their last North American tour in 1999. Here’s hoping things go much better this time around, when they bring the ought-to-have-been-Mercury-nominated Journal For Plague Lovers, getting a domestic release come September 15, across the pond. They’re at the Phoenix on October 4.
Former Mercury nominee Richard Hawley will release his newest Truelove’s Gutter on September 22. There’s a video for the first single and the whole record is like a long, sustained swoon. Which is to say it’s lovely. Hawley chats with The Huddersfield Daily Examiner about the new record.
Micachu & The Shapes have a new video. Look for them at the El Mocambo on September 29.
Noah & The Whale, whose new one First Days Of Spring is getting some solid praise, will be returning to North America including a Hallowe’en date at the Horseshoe in Toronto on October 31, tickets $15. Come dressed as your favourite Wes Anderson character! Actually, don’t – I am envisioning attending this gig surrounded by Richie and Margot Tenenbaum wannabes and it terrifies me. The album is out domestically on October 6.
Video: 6 Day Riot – “O, Those Kids”
Los Campesinos are giving away a free track. Just because.
Massive Attack prepare for the release of a new EP entitled Splitting The Atom, out October 6, by talking to Spin, Under The Radar and Spinner, the last of whom also have a stream of a new song. There’s also streams of new stuff at Stereogum and The Guardian.