Released May 7, 2013
In the last ten years, the UK music scene has been producing new female singer-songwriters like an exponential growth function let loose. After the great success of Ireland-native Róisín Murphy’s trip hop and dance-pop solo career in the UK, followed by Amy Winehouse’s planetary breakout and her revival of contemporary soul and jazz music, there have been few major waves of incoming sound — and look-alike female musicians. Adele and Duffy were the first ones to take and pass on Winehouse’s torch, by writing and producing similarly soulful and bluesy songs. By the end of the 2000s, a new wave of more-pop-oriented female artists brought VV Brown, Jessie J, Florence Welch (of Florence + The Machine), and Marina Diamandis (of Marina and the Diamonds). In the meantime, Róisín Murphy-inspired artists, such as Elly Jackson (of La Roux) and Ellie Goulding, diversified the music scene by popularizing electro-pop music.
Victoria Hesketh, otherwise known as Little Boots, is one of the latter. A self-advertised phenomenon on YouTube and MySpace, Little Boots came to prominence after her songs garnered the attention of various critics, who praised her for her refreshing twist on mainstream electronic music. The wide acknowledgement and hype escalated after the official release of her debut album Hands in 2009. While the album was a satisfying musical novelty, it lacked a smooth production, and the spark of her cool and quirky personality. Luckily, Little Boots’ new dance album Nocturnes compensates for the previous misses and brings out Hesketh’s modest uniqueness.
“Indebted to the night,” as Hesketh puts it, Nocturnes is a 50-minute album that weaves love and nightclub dance plots into heavy, Hercules-and-Love-Affair-esque beats. It might sound tawdry, but Little Boots does it well — just when the darker and rhythmically mellower tracks like “Motorway” and “Confusion” build up the album’s emotional spectrum, the album’s deep house and pop gems infuse the atmosphere with careless and sinister-yet-innocent hooks. The best of these is the track “Shake,” produced by Hesketh and Simian Mobile Disco’s James Ford, which defines the “ultimate dance track” template. With the infectiously catchy lyrics “Everybody shake, la la la la la la, until your heart breaks,” “Shake” is guaranteed to shake the unshakeable.
The album openly draws influences from many other artists. “Beat” sounds like an incarnation of Kylie Minogue, “Satellite” is reminiscent of a Kate Havnevik-inspired electro fairytale, and the rest of the tracks share the common flavor of Goldfrapp, Róisín Murphy and a bit of Sophie Ellis-Bextor. Even with all these influences and previously-invented dance tunes, Little Boots still sounds as tonic and refreshing as ever. A few tracks, such as “Crescendo,” “Strangers,” and “All For You,” become somewhat repetitive and bog down the album’s progressiveness, but the overall result is still satisfying. It took her some time to move from the comfort zone of her previous album, but it seems that she has finally found her own safe haven in the music industry.
With Nocturnes, Little Boots will permanently leave her footprints on the UK music scene. The album is not as old-school and original as Róisín Murphy’s Overpowered, nor does it possess the timelessness of Amy Winehouse’s Back to Black, but it has enough quality to prove her superiority over overhyped Brit contemporaries, such as Ellie Goulding. Just observe carefully — when the singles from Nocturnes reach the wider mainstream audiences, the clubbing scenes will ignite and perk up worldwide.
Highlight tracks: “Shake,” “Beat Beat,” “Every Night I Say a Prayer,” “Satellite.”