The United Kingdom, spiritual home of one of my all-time favourite things — the synthesizer duo — has a new obsession: the female synthesizer solo act. La Roux, Ladyhawke (a Kiwi, but bear with me) and Little Boots. Three synth acts, close in age, sound and musical philosophies. Coincidence? Yes, but it warrants writing about the best of the bunch, synth pop new kid on the block Victoria Hesketh, professionally known as Little Boots.
A former Pop Idol contestant and member of the now-defunct indie pop outfit Dead Disco, Hesketh struck out on her own, got herself a MySpace music page, issued the Arecibo EP and soon had hipster blogs buzzing with excitement as songs like “Stuck on Repeat” and “Meddle” were traded among friends and played in clubs.
Hands, the recently released debut full-length album, is an ambitious pop fiesta, spiced with inflections of classic retro-synth, euro dance elements and an unabashed nod to early ’80s futurism à la Human League (“Perfect Symmetry” even features League lead singer and electronic pioneer Phil Oakey). Album highlight and first single “New in Town” (which is also featured on the new Illuminations EP for the Canadian market) kicks off the album to a fine start, with its stop/start chords, slick beats and celebratory feel.
Basically purely electronic pop, Hands deftly uses that electronic angle to extremes. There is movement from track to track. The moody, downbeat “Click” could almost be Numan or Travelogue/Reproduction-era Human League, while the exuberance and sheer joy of “Remedy” has hit written all over it. The clever lyrics and hooks of album standout “Mathematics” is another highlight.
The problem with much electronic music is the reliance on the sound is too obsessed over, while the songwriting just isn’t up to par. Digitalism, anyone? Not Little Boots.
The strength of Little Boots’ Hands is that it hits the mark where it needs to — well-crafted songs brought to life with great sounds which are actually interesting to the ear. Little Boots’ earlier recordings suggested a more leftfield approach to pop, which seems to be all but abandoned on Hands. It embraces the pop ethos with gusto. I can’t see Little Boots being around long in the public consciousness, but that can often be the hallmark of good quality pop. It’s now, it’s of the moment, meant to be enjoyed, forgotten and rediscovered in about 10 years when we’re all bemoaning how pop music is just the ultimate recycling program.
DJ Shane Percy spins at Grapefruit at Fly (8 Gloucester St) on Fri, Aug 14. Little Boots plays in at Wrongbar (1279 Queen St W) on Mon, Sep 14.
WEA (import). $21.
Elektra Domestic. $6.99.
Check out the video for “Remedy” below: