It seems like just yesterday Little Boots — otherwise known as Victoria Hesketh — released her amazing debut album Hands, but it actually came out in 2009, and so four years have passed between Hands’ release and the release of her sophomore effort Nocturnes, which was released on May 3, 2013.
There are a couple of obvious differences between Hands and Nocturnes that are immediately noticeable. Whereas Hands was electro-pop, Nocturnes is more of an electro-house album, owing as much to the clubs as it does to pop. And where Hands was bright and shiny, Nocturnes is decidedly dark and almost demands to be listened to at night.
The album opens with the propulsive “Motorway,” which starts off with pulsating, dark synth and faint but shimmering strings then adds loud, reverb-heavy keyboards before throbbing, light beats enter the picture, louder beats coming later just as the first chorus ends. The mesmerizing track also features layers of assorted loops, giving it added depth and texture. It was co-written by Hesketh and Jim Eliot of Kish Mauve, who’s worked with an impressive list of artists including Kylie Minogue, Will Young, Sophie Ellis-Bextor and Ellie Goulding. Production was handled by Tim Goldsworthy, who produced or co-produced all but one of the tracks on the album. A joint owner of DFA Records, along with James Murphy of LCD Soundsystem, his production credits include Cut Copy, Massive Attack and Hercules & Love Affair.
Hesketh and Jim Eliot also co-wrote the song “Crescendo,” which features more resounding keyboards along with some very funky bass guitar, airy synth and thunderous beats. While it’s not as immediately catchy as some of the album’s other tracks, it’s definitely a song that grows on you more and more with each listening. “We keep getting louder,” Hesketh sings, her sugary and seductive voice resembling that of Saint Etienne’s Sarah Cracknell.
One of the album’s strongest tracks is the electro-disco-house song “Confusion,” which Hesketh wrote with Jeppe Laursen, who co-produced the track along with Goldsworthy. Laursen is most known for co-writing and producing Lady Gaga’s monster hit “Born This Way.” “I’ve been caught up in a lie / haven’t called you in a while / confusion,” Hesketh sings channeling Debbie Harry. Like many of the songs on Nocturnes, the lyrics here are rather repetitious, which helps make the song especially hypnotic. But the most repetitious song on the album is easily “Broken Record,” but would you expect anything less from a song with that title? Hesketh again channels Debbie Harry on this one, and the song’s enchanting bells were clearly inspired by Blondie’s “Rapture.” It was written by Hesketh along with Rick Nowels and Devrim Karaoglu. (Nowels has worked with dozens of artists including Dido, Lykke Li, Santigold and Charlie XCX. Karaoglu has worked with Selena Gomez, Miley Cyrus and Demi Lovato, among others.)
’70’s disco sounds dominate the club-ready “Beat Beat,” an ultra-funky track written by Hesketh and acclaimed songwriter Pascal Gabriel, who’s most known for his work with Ladyhawke, Kylie Minogue, Natalie Imbruglia, Rachel Stevens and Morcheeba’s Skye Edwards. (He also co-wrote and produced Miss Kittin’s superb album Batbox.) “Don’t you know that I’m gonna keep on dancing / dancing to the beat of your heart / beat, beat, beat of your heart,” Hesketh sings during the infectious chorus.
Two of Nocturnes’ best tracks were co-written by Hesketh and Hercules and Love Affair’s Andrew Butler. The first is the nu-house masterpiece “Every Night I Say A Prayer,” which clearly has a ’90’s club music influence. (They keyboards also call to mind “Good Vibrations” by Marky Mark and the Funky Bunch.) The second is “All For You,” one of the album’s quieter tracks, which seems destined to appear on many a chill out playlist. Butler co-produced this one with Goldsworthy and I suspect that it was influenced by Depeche Mode.
I should also mention the album’s final track, “Satellite,” which was co-written and co-produced by Ariel Rechtshaid, who’s known for working with dozens of artists including Major Lazer, Charli XCX and Alex Clare. It especially reminds me of Fever-era Kylie Minogue. “Like a satellite / I’m falling, I’m falling / down to earth,” Hesketh sings. The track shows a bit of vulnerability, something she fails to convey throughout most of the album. But this isn’t the sort of album where one really needs to convey vulnerability. This is an album that calls for Hesketh to be more of a domninatrix, commanding you to get your ass out onto the dancefloor.
Watch Little Boots new video for “Broken Record” here: http://www.youtube.com/user/LittleBootsVEVO?v=Ad-SeZBt3dk