Monthly Archives: July 2015

Working Girl

I’ve been seeing a few random articles about Millennials and the work-life balance posted on my Facebook news feed by friends. Usually they’re scoffing at whatever the articles are about, so I imagine it’s the baby boomer generation (or possibly Generation X) shitting on my generation. I haven’t actually clicked any of the articles to find out because the term “Millennials” kind of makes me grimace – same goes for the term “90’s Kid” (even if I’ll occasionally reminisce about the things I enjoyed in my childhood – like I maybe have before). Anyway, I don’t think I need to read the articles to figure out what they’re about and what tired old lines they’ll be using. I don’t need an older generation to tell me what’s wrong with mine. I’ve got a David Bowie song for them (it’s “Changes”) and I can tell them where to put it (in their ears – where else?).

Anyway, enough of my inane rambling. The whole reason I brought up the work-life balance and Millennials is because it seems to fit with the themes of this week’s post, which will be about Little Boots’s hot-off-the-fax-machine release Working Girl! It just came out on Friday and, while I’ve been away at San Diego Comic-Con (I just got back Sunday evening), I was able to download my pre-order over my phone and have been playing it pretty much nonstop! I’ve been saying that Little Boots has just gotten better and better with each album, EP, and single she’s released, and Working Girl just proves it. This is a FANTASTIC album! My favorite so far!

Another thing I’ve been saying is that with each progressive album, EP, and single, Little Boots (aka Victoria Hekseth) has been sounding more and more like herself. The music feels true to her. Not that I know her personally, but Working Girl as a whole sounds more natural and familiar than every previous release. I thought I had read somewhere that her previous label, Atlantic, had still had a hand in the pot with her previous album Nocturnes, but I can’t remember where I read it, so take that with a grain of salt. If this is truly her first fully independent record with her own label On Repeat, then it really shows. Working Girl is full of personality and roars with an identity all its own.

The album introduces itself with a phone call and a monotone recorded message by Hesketh, which ends by challenging the listener to “make something happen.” We then dive into the title track “Working Girl,” a very modern and introspective track, but also danceable. When she strikes up the mantra “It’s so hard, it’s so hard for a working girl” I’m reminded of the Above and Beyond remix of Madonna’s “What It Feels Like For A Girl.” The whole track bears echoes of a resemblance to the Queen of Pop’s single – thought it’s clearly its own entity – down to the feminist undertones. It’s a great, great track to start on.

We follow up with “No Pressure,” another introspective track, though a sadder one too. There’s a frustration and cynicism that’s heavy in lyrics like “You make it sound so easy when you say/No pressure…Anything is possible/You just need a miracle!” Though the album has themes of corporate culture (which Hekseth has maintained across social media – and it’s been great), there’s a criticism of it as well that’s pervasive throughout the track. There’s a freedom to admitting it all though – and this track is very freeing.

If you’re feeling a little down after the first two tracks, then “Get Things Done” is there to energize you. This track makes me want to put on a pantsuit and do some aerobics. Okay, maybe not so much, but it does get me pumped. It’s so confident. It’s that Victoria in the intro telling you in a commanding yet encouraging voice to “make something happen.” It makes you want to get up. Sonically, it’s got some disco influences that are smooth and subtle, making this one easy to dance to with a familiar sound.

I’ve talked briefly about the following track before – “Taste It” – though it was mostly about the video. It’s so good though, I can’t help but associate it the sinister and uber-creepy vibe of the video. It actually manages to fit in with the theme of the album: work. I guess I just think “So close I can” before the words “taste it.” In that way, the song is kind of taunting. “Think you cannot be broken/You’re a drop in the ocean.” “Did you think that you were innocent/When you’re really not that different?”

Next up we have one of my favorite tracks on this album, “Real Girl.” I pretty much loved its synthy beats right away the first time I heard it. I read somewhere that the phrase “Manic Pixie Dream Girl” has gone out of style, but I’m going to use it here anyway and I think you’ll forgive me when you see the context. Because this song is about the rejection of being seen as the Manic Pixie Dream Girl. Hekseth sings about being tired of being treated as an untouchable goddess. “Were you hoping I’d be flawless?/Were you wishing on a movie star?” (Googling the lyrics tell me it’s “wishing I’m a movie star” but the I wrote it is the way I hear it, and I like the play on words much better.) It’s a punchy and confident track, a lot like “Get Things Done” but lighter and more fun.

Another track from her EP Business Pleasure comes next – “Heroine” – which I also talked about in that post I linked two paragraphs ago. There’s a deep house sound to this track. Much of this album falls into the house genre, but it’s most obvious here, I think. It’s a dreamy, late night track that sounds like it was made while driving fast down a dark, empty city street. It’s a good final track before the mid-album “Interlude” telling us that we are number 2,048 in the hold queue.

And then we dive into “The Game” another confidence-boosting track. One thing I noticed on this album is that it’s lacking in heartbreak and love songs – quite the contrast to her debut album Hands and even Nocturnes. (I like that a lot!) Instead, this album has a lot of themes about taking charge of your life, taking the initiative yourself, and not waiting for serendipity to stumble across your path. It’s all about counting on yourself (and putting yourself) first. Sonically, the house influences are strong here too. This one straddles the line between house and pop actually, and it works really well!

Actually “Help Too” may be the only song that dabbles in themes of love – but it’s not looking through rose-colored glasses. This is a troubled relationship that’s all take and no give…which may make it seem like a song that could have been on Hands. And that is true, but it fits just fine on Working Girl, especially in sound. It’s got a dreamy almost underwater tone to it. Appropriate for when she sings “I’m calling out your name, but my lungs are full of the ocean.” Her voice is high and clear on this track – it’s just beautiful.

We get one last track from the Business Pleasure EP – and that is “Business Pleasure.” Refer again to that earlier link where I talk about the entire EP, including this song. It’s one of my favorites. It makes me want to dance – or do aerobics again. It’s full of energy and confidence. I really like the lines “I’m not your girl in the machine” and “Lost in the city with no power, hour after hour.” Whenever I hear this song, I just want to charge through whatever I’m doing and get it done!

The penultimate track is “Paradise,” a sad and wistful track about finding the perfect place to escape and be free, while knowing you can’t stay forever. Boy, did I feel like that on the drive home from Comic-Con! “I found a place that is holy/Somewhere to feel like a child…Back to the real world/All the color’s fading.” Yeah, sounds about right. Though it’s a sad track, it’s still a good dance track. Just about every song on this album is. Just because it’s sad and a little weepy doesn’t mean this one can’t be danced to.

Finally, we end with “Better In The Morning,” which I talked about before, and as I mentioned then is still now one of my favorites! It’s a great track to end on. So upbeat and perky, especially with that keyboard-synth noise that sounds like a bird chirping. It just puts a skip in your step. I see that I was hopeful for an awesome video, and Little Boots did not disappoint! I am loving this ready-for-gifs video! Simple, bright, and colorful! It’s reminiscent of the video for “Taste It” but I’d say this one is more mischievous and playful than sinister and disturbing.

Well, those were the last tracks…unless you got the bonus tracks! The first one is “Desire.” It’s a cool little epilogue, dreamy and soaring. Even considering that, it’s still got a powerful beat and it’s still commands attention. Hekseth’s voice is great here. I feel you can really tell how wonderfully it gets along with synths. “Desire” may be just a bonus track, but it’s hardly forgettable.

The other bonus track is an acoustic version of “Working Girl.” I’m so glad she put this one on here! I always love hearing the acoustic versions of her songs because you can really hear how structured they are. The acoustic translates perfectly to the electronic and vice versa, and they both sound amazing. Electronic music really isn’t that much of a stretch away from acoustic when you get down to the bare bones.

Get this album! Little Boots just keeps getting better and better. I get so excited every time I hear she’s working on something new because I know it’s going to show off her growth and evolution as an artist and I can’t wait to hear how. Also, I’m going to see her live at the Echo here in LA tomorrow, so I’m eager to see how these songs translate to the stage. I would highly encourage you to see Little Boots live if you get a chance. She’s a master performer on stage. She always amazes me with something new. I’ll report back next week!

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Lily Allen

Sorry I skipped another week! No excuses, no excuses. Let’s just jump right into this week’s post, shall we?

This week I’m going to talk about some selections from Lily Allen’s sophomore album It’s Not Me, It’s You. The reason I’m not doing the entire album is because, well, it’s kind of boring. At least to me. Yes, Allen showed a lot of maturity in her songwriting and themes compared to her debut album , but sonically, there’s nothing really interesting going on. It’s an ordinary pop album. It’s mostly forgettable. But there are 3 stand out tracks I’ll be discussing here.

The first is the succinctly-titled “Fuck You,” which preceded CeeLo Green’s track of the same name by 2 years. The song has a couple of different origin stories, the first being that the song was written about the BNP (an extreme right-wing political group in the UK). The second origin story, and a much more interesting one in my opinion, starts with a song being initially titled “Guess Who Batman.” GWB. George W. Bush. Listen to the lyrics and it’s obvious that’s who the song is about. “You want to be like your father/It’s approval you’re after”? I mean, come on. Allen might have played it a little coy though because the song was first previewed on Myspace in 2008, but it didn’t come out on the album until 2009 – George W. was on his way out while Obama was on his way in. So there’s that.

The music video isn’t very interesting. This is pretty much the case with all the Allen videos from this album and even the ones from Alright, Still. This one in particular is kind of petty and has nothing to do with the themes of the song at all. Here it is anyway.

Next up is “Not Fair,” one of my favorites from this album. I still find myself returning to and enjoying it. It’s got an distinct sound right away that instantly makes you wonder if this is supposed to be a country track. It’s a great fusion of pop music with country themes that makes it stand out from the rest. Also, it’s about being in an otherwise perfect relationship that is sexually unsatisfying. Like REALLY sexually unsatisfying. I like that there’s this brief back and forth that goes on in her head where she’s asking herself if she’s just being picky (she’s not), and the frustration that comes through in the chorus is great. The video is cool thematically and fits with the sound of the track, but other than that, it’s nothing spectacular.

Lastly, we’ve got my other favorite track from this album, “The Fear.” This is one of her smartest songs, in my opinion (but then I haven’t heard anything post-It’s Not Me besides “Hard Out Here” which was a total failure as a commentary-style track). Allen adopts this character throughout the song who’s mindlessly overfed themselves on pop culture to the point of being jaded (“I am a weapon of massive consumption/It’s not my fault, it’s how I’m programmed to function”). This is made eerily clear to us early on in the song though (“I want loads of clothes and fuckloads of diamonds/I heard people die while they’re trying to find them”). This song tackles every issue related to pop culture that, even though it wasn’t that long ago, still holds true today (“Everything’s cool as long as I’m getting thinner”). Also, the acoustic version is fantastic – just Lily, a piano, and a guitar.

Sadly, for a song this powerful, I think the music video fails again. It just feels like Allen couldn’t decide on an emotion (total disinterest would have been my advice) much less focus on whatever she was supposed to be doing. The direction is also not that great. There are some weird cuts and when interesting things are happening, we don’t get to look at them long enough before the angle changes or the camera jumps to another shot. I’ve got a totally different vision for this video, but it’s not worth describing because, well, music videos are visual and this one is kind of complicated. Plus, that’s not what this post is about. So here’s the official video!

I don’t really recommend this album in general. I mean, give it a listen and preview it by whatever means you can, but these are the only tracks I would spend money on (if I hadn’t already spent money on the whole thing ages ago myself).

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