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Fills Her Boots
Hands - Little Boots
Member Name: tom1clare
Hands - Little Boots
Date: 02/10/11, updated on 03/10/11 (43 review reads)
Advantages: "Earthquake" is stunning; several other energetic pop efforts; consistantly good writing
Disadvantages: Fizzles out a little in the last few songs; not especially original
If her fun keyboard solos of The Human League's "Don't You Want Me", Cyndi Lauper's "Time After Time" and Madonna's "Material Girl" all hinted at a musical aptitude and love of pure, unadulterated pop melodies, then first studio album Hands, released in 2009, is more concrete evidence of an artist capable of much more than skilful mimicry.
Whilst similar eighties-leaning acts have gone for the retro-jugular by focusing on abrasive and starkly basic synth instrumentation, Hands is "all electronic" yet doesn't feel "old" - it's an album that era-hops with an impressive fluidity. Little Boots jumps effortlessly and uncannily between early eighties synth vibes and more modern, electro-dance, though the divide between where one ends and another begins is rarely distinct. This proves a positive however as Hands feels a cohesive (if at times a little safe thematically) debut, with a barrage of eloquent and clever lyrics ably backed by foot-tapping production.
It gets off to a perfect start with the sexy "New In Town". The staccato but soft electronics; warbling bass; quick-fire drum beats and smooth, cool vocal delivery all combine to make a rather wondrous, sleek amalgamation of Gary Numan and Goldfrapp. This is followed up by the epic "Earthquake". It's the album's finest work as the song that most successfully marries Little Boots's pop sensibilities with lyrical finesse. An explosive cascade of synths open the tune in magnificent fashion and from there on in, it's relentless. "Earthquake" manages the oh-so-difficult task of conveying lyrical vulnerability through affecting verses and yet simultaneously brisles with an infectious, rousing energy that will have you belting along with the brilliant chorus.
Hesketh and her myriad of producers graft out some more contemporary-sounding efforts too. "Stuck On Repeat", a brooding effort which confidently draws attention to its superb, marauding beat, would seem as much at home in a club as a retro disco. "Meddle" is an off-kilter track that tackles the psychological pitfalls of love with an aptly paranoid edge. It's different, though the clanking percussion and production makes it a less attractive pop song than those around it.
Then there's the eminently danceable "Remedy". With RedOne on production duties, Lady GaGa comparisons are perhaps inevitable with this top ten hit. Indeed, it was likely a stepping stone for RedOne in developing the structure and holler-along chorus that was later and more famously a trope of "Bad Romance". "Remedy" is an absolute blast; a relatively uniform, dance-as-cure message aided by the supreme chorus complete with ballsy but brilliant double-rhyme: "Move while you're watching me/Dance with the enemy/Here is my remedy, oh, uh-oh uh-oh" which becomes increasingly impossible not to sing along to.
The chief influence remains in synthpop of course, and there are several good examples of this on Hands. The atmospheric "Mathematics" employs trimmed piano notes to work its tempo, offering another gleeful exercise in word-play as a skit on a formula of love ("cause nothing can divide a heart plus a heart") though the lengthy, laboured chorus is not as immediate as on the albums better tracks. This is swiftly followed by the excellent "Symmetry", a collaboration with The Human League's frontman Phil Oakey. A rousing, gem of a pop song, it fittingly pitches a meeting of eras to the theme of opposition ("you're the night to my day and the left to my right/the blood to my veins and the dark to my light"). The duo's voices work in perfect tandem for the chorus whilst appearing at polar-opposite during their respective verses, and in terms of range and the purity of delivery, it is Hesketh's strongest vocal display. As well as catchy ditty "Click", "Symmetry" could have fit comfortably among THL's noughties output, with the added bonus of Little Boots's excellent voice and sharper lyrics meaning the student has in this instance very much trumped the masters' more recent material.
There are no out-an-out failures, but a few songs hover dangerously closer to filler. "Ghost" continues the admirably extensive journey through lyrical metaphors as an examination of lovers growing distant, whilst "Tune In To My Heart" has a gentle, hum-along quality, but neither offer distinctive or adventurous instrumentation and thus fail to really grab the attention. Little Boots opts to avoid ballads, though where "Earthquake" turns themes of sadness into charged, emotional and memorable burst of music, the reflective musings of "Hearts Collide" drifts along rather more harmlessly. The choruses lack any real bite during the final few tracks but the enjoyable rolling (or perhaps "driving") synths of the finale "No Brakes" go some way to making up for it, with a talkie monologue giving it a little bit of a new-romantic veneer.
So what does Hands tell us? Although some of the individual quirks of the artist may have be lost under heavy production, it's perhaps a necessary sacrifice as there's little question the bigger numbers are also the better ones. The first half of the album is more energetic and interesting than the second, and Little Boots may opt to transmit her impressive writing skills on a more personal level in future. There are several outstanding songs and no major mishaps, but room for improvement. It's heartening to see a musician endeavouring to make pop music without taking the reality TV route, and judging by this debut, there's plenty of promise for the future.
Earthquake; Remedy; New In Town; Symmetry
"Every little earthquake, every little heartbreak, going unheard/
Every little landslide, catch it in my hand, I won't say a word"
Summary: ...a whole review without any puns concerning Little Boots' Hands!