Review: Little Boots- Hands

A sign of the blurring of lines between mainstream pop music and “pure laine” electro music is the difficulty Softsynth has had writing certain reviews lately including this one and another coming shortly. As we listen to this album the question that keeps arising is “what the hell are we listening to”? Not in a bad way per se, but in a “where are the lines drawn anymore” manner.

On the face of it Hands is a producer-heavy mainstream pop album, though a very good one. But dig a half-inch down and you see something darker, something more interesting, something more challenging. What one finds is a crystalline example of the cross pollination between genres we’ve written about a fair bit lately. A pure electronic, no compromise, take no prisoners, make no excuses synth-heavy album that aspires to be talen seriously as a chart contender. And it sounds utterly fresh and clean. Little Boots, aka Victoria Hesketh have given us a gem.

It’s not the lyrical content that drives this record. Fairly traditional love songs like “Stuck on Repeat” or “No Brakes” are an exercise in trying not to roll your eyes. (No brakes/There’s no heartbreaks/Love overtakes; yes, okay…) but musically, it’s a vintage synth pop album using tricks old and new 

Much of the album – nearly every song in fact – is a continuing story of broken hearts and damaged souls (Meddle: Don’t meddle with the heart/Meddle with the mind/Meddle with the things inside/You don’t know what you’ll find/You don’t know what she hides/So don’t go messing with the heart or Messing with the mind), and there’s not much new here on that front but each story is told in a swirling world of propulsive beats and angry, pulsating synths putting you in the picture sonically and making up for what’s wanting on the lyrical front by creating a world with her sounds.

And it works. Some tracks, like “Tune Into My Heart” don’t bring anything interesting to the table but they are the exception. The aforementioned “Meddle” may not say much lyrically but its dancehall purity would put No Doubt to shame. Songs like lead single “New in Town” and the tango-influenced “Ghosts” play with our concepts of rhythm and pacing and grab our attention from the first note. And then there’s “Symmetry”, the duet with Human League’s Phil Oakey that’s so pure old-school it sounds more like a classic Human League track than anything distinctly “Little Boots”.

Sometimes, when you are listening to a very mainstream track like “Remedy” you wonder if you are listening to the latest flavour of the week – the new Lady Gaga, if you will –  but then, listen closely enough and you’ll hear something unexpected peeking around the corner. A synth glitch, a vocal hiccup you weren’t counting on and you’ll smile in surprise. This is chart music to be sure, but it’s something else too – it’s a damn fine electronic record that does the genre proud.

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