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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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Double Feature – Better in the Morning and Headphones

WELL, IT HAPPENED. Little Boots heard my plea and dropped the first single from her upcoming album Working Girl. It’s called “Better in the Morning” and here it is!

Those snippets from Instagram were indeed from her first single! And I love it just as much as I knew I would when I first heard them! This light, bouncy melody is infectious – it makes me feel over-the-moon happy. This is the song for people who need a little help getting out of bed in the morning. It certainly got me out of bed when I saw that it had dropped. As I described it elsewhere, I was so excited, I started hamboning. This is my favorite Little Boots single since “Headphones” (which I’ll get to shortly).

I’m just so excited for this album! With each album, EP, or single she releases, I love her sound more and more. This is a grand evolution of style, and I’m so happy because I think that it shows her true self (even if in all the album propaganda she plays the role of a very formal CEO character – it’s been fun though!). I’m hopeful for a fun video as well. “Taste It” was fantastic.

Now, you may have noticed the “Double Feature” up there in the title – I wanted to talk about another single that has nothing to do with this new one or the upcoming album. That would be 2012’s “Headphones.”

I thought it was appropriate to include not only because I mentioned it earlier, but also because this single gave me similar feelings of over-the-moon happiness, especially when I saw the video! It was a standalone single, so it didn’t get released with Nocturnes, even though it came out before that album but after “Shake,” which WAS included on the aforementioned album. It makes sense to me though. It doesn’t quite fit with the themes of Nocturnes.

“Headphones” is much more of a dance track than “Better in the Morning” but it’s still a bouncy and positive tune – and catchy too! Likewise, it features some…Non-lexical vocables? I looked up scatting on Wikipedia, even though that’s not what it is, but my search lead me to this. Basically, it’s when Little Boots sings “La la la la la,” while in “Better in the Morning” it’s “Do do do do do do do.” Sure, it’s a simple thing to do, but it helps carry on the mood of the song and makes it easy to sing along.

What I love about the video is how it fits in with the themes of the song – these people walk into a private booth in a shady, not sure of what they’ll see. Surprise! It’s themselves! But where the watcher is seated and dressed austerely, their counterparts are dressed in vibrant colors and outfits, dancing under flashing lights like they don’t have a care in the world. The sitter seems shocked, confused, and unsure at first, but then when they see how happy their more free-spirited selves are, they finally give in. The older woman crying just gets to me. Everything about this video makes me smile.

If you need a little cheering up, put one – or both – of these songs on and just let them do their thing! Better yet, watch the video for “Headphones” and you’ll smile for sure. Hopefully the video for “Better in the Morning” is forthcoming and just as good! I’ll do another update on the single whenever it comes!

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Hands

There have been stirrings on Little Boots’s Facebook and Instagram accounts and I’m just SO EXCITED. If you’ll notice the funny-looking phone number, that’s a toll-free UK number you can call to get a recorded message about the new album, Working Girl, which is coming out July 10. I hope these song snippets we’re getting are the first single. I just want to buy something while I wait for the new album!

Well, in the meantime, I thought I’d take a look back at one of Little Boot’s past albums, since I’ve only written about her latest EP, Business PleasureLittle Boots is one of my favorite artists, so it’s shocking that that’s all I’ve done!

Hands was Little Boots’s first album, released in 2009. I think I discovered her back when I was listening to last.fm regularly at work. Anyway, I loved her music right away! That was one album that didn’t take me long to buy. It was good fun electropop, catchy and danceable. Looking back on it now, though, there’s really only a handful of standout songs. She’s gone on to make much better music in her so far short career.

I can’t remember what my first song was…So let’s just start with the first track of the album, as usual! That would be “New in Town,” one of my favorite songs on this album (and a favorite Little Boots song in general) not just because it’s fun and catchy and danceable (as previously mentioned) but also because it’s about LA! Little Boots wrote this song as an anthem to this city, where she lived for a time when she was part of an indie band called Dead Disco. And both times that I’ve seen her play live, this one is a crowd pleaser!

I love that the music video doesn’t feature typical LA landmarks, like the Walk of Fame, the Hollywood sign, the TCL Chinese Theatre (formerly Grauman’s) – in fact, there’s not even a single shot of palm trees or beaches! And yet it was all filmed in LA. Fantastic!

“Earthquake” is your standard stuck-in-a-relationship-gone-sour ditty. It’s not a remarkable song for me. The video has some nice visuals.

After that we’ve got one of the great stand-outs on this album, “Stuck On Repeat,” although I MUCH prefer the version she recorded on her 2008 EP Arecibo. It’s twice as long but somehow I feel like it’s simpler and better paced. It’s so hypnotic, which is perfect for this song. That’s exactly the feeling it’s supposed to evoke. Actually, this one might have been the first Little Boots song I heard, now that I think of it. The EP version is the version I remember hearing on last.fm. Anyway, if you get this album and like this song, get the Arecibo version too!

“Click” is another relationship-gone-sour song! This album has quite a few of them, now that I think of it. Funny, since synthpop is kind of a happy-go-lucky sound. I like “Click” better than “Earthquake” though. The chorus has a good beat.

“Remedy” is by far one of Little Boots’s most popular songs. I think it’s her highest charting single. It’s a wonderful, catchy song! It’s definitely one of my favorites – and another crowd pleaser, considering it’s about dancing. The music video visuals are awesome. She had a kaleidoscope theme going on with this album, as made very clear here. It also features her weapons of choice – the keyboard and the Tenori-on, which is the square thing that looks like that Lights Out game from the 90’s. I haven’t yet got to see her use it live! The first time, it wasn’t working so she left it out of the show. The second time, the show was slightly more…acoustic? Anyway, she didn’t have it then either. One day!

“Meddle” is another stand-out, though it doesn’t get as much attention. I distinctly remember her playing this one the second time I saw her and it was AMAZING because it was a sort of rock version. She had a drummer and an electric guitarist on stage with her. It was a brilliant rendition. I need to see if I can find a rock version of it somewhere – anywhere! Anyway, the album version is just fine too! Dig that Tenori-on.

“Ghost” – another bad relationship – yadda yadda – I’m not crazy about this one either! Sorry!

“Mathematics” is kind of fun. She goes though some of PEMDAS and some other math terms. I can hear a math nerd somewhere trying to work out the song in their head like an equation and just coming up with “That’s not how math works!” Anyway, it’s catchy and easy to sing along to.

“Symmetry” is a good one too! Not the best, but good! It’s a bit of a duet with Philip Oakey of The Human League – I don’t know who that is but I have a feeling someone out there will be mad at me for it. His voice fits nice with the melody though! I can feel the early 80’s new wave traveling across the decades to meet with the late oughties synthpop.

Next up we’ve got “Tune Into My Heart.” It’s sweet and I like it, but I don’t have much to say about it! Honestly, this one felt like it could have been the ending track. But there’s a reason it wasn’t, which we’ll get to later.

I like “Hearts Collide” too! The dark, almost seductive sound is very nice. There’s something sirenic about it. It feels like she’s drawing you in. It’s a nice change, and I think maybe an indicator of some of her later sounds.

“No Brakes” is just okay. I generally fast forward through it to get to the hidden track, “Hands,” a pleasant little acoustic track. It’s just Little Boots and a piano, something I really enjoy. I have a handful of songs like that, including a cover of Kate Bush’s “Running Up That Hill.” It’s pretty cool when you can hear how her complex electropop songs are born on a good old-fashioned piano.

There are some extra songs on various “bonus track” versions of this album (gosh, I hate it when they do that) that include “Catch 22” (a great one!), “Love Kills” (a fantastic Freddie Mercury cover), an acoustic version of “Stuck On Repeat” (beautiful), a Tenori-on Piano version of Meddle (fun!), and various remixes.

Overall, it’s difficult to rank Little Boots’s various albums, EPs, and promotional singles, but I would say that, while I still enjoy Hands from time to time, it’s my least favorite of the lot. As I go from her oldest work to her most recent work, I can her more of her unique personality shining through. She sounds more like herself as time goes on, more natural. I brought this up before, but I’m certain I read somewhere that her record label at the time, Atlantic, was trying to make her into the next Kylie Minogue, and it just didn’t work for her. She had to break out and do her own thing for awhile. That explains the four year gap between albums – Nocturnes came out in 2013. Meanwhile, the Business Pleasure EP came out about a year and a half later, while Working Girl is due out less than a year after that. That’s not even including the various EPs and promotional singles I mentioned earlier. And I haven’t even mentioned her mixtapes (have I mentioned she’s a DJ?).

I’m so glad Little Boots decided to make her own record label and do her own thing. Her work just gets better and better. I just couldn’t get enough of Business Pleasure when it came out, and I’m really looking forward to Working Girl! She’s got a great future ahead, and I can’t wait to see what’s next!

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Business Pleasure

I can’t believe I’ve never talked about Little Boots on here before! She’s easily in my top 10 favorite artists list. I’ve seen her perform twice! She’s just darling and fantastic.

Little Boots (Victoria Hesketh) is a singer-songwriter and DJ hailing from Blackpool, Lancashire, England. She gets her name from her apparently tiny feet. I’m not sure what her shoe size is, but I was front stage at one of her shows and I can verify she’s quite a petite person!

I feel Little Boots is terribly underrated as an artist. She plays the piano, keyboards, synthesizer, Tenori-on, and all these other electronic instruments I’ve never heard of, and she plays them like a master. I mean, seriously, just watch this video of her basically playing three instruments while singing and making her own harmony along with the melody at the same time.

That song is from her first studio album, Hands, by the way. But I’m going to talk about her latest EP Business Pleasure! I like to think of it as an after after hours type of record. It sounds like it would be played in the dead of night, long after the clock has rolled back over to three digits but long before the sun will rise. It’s different from her usual sound. Hands was very electropop inspired. It sounded like early evening music. Her second album, Nocturnes, had a sort of house/dance sound to it. It was very late night to me. Business Pleasure has a very low-key, cool house sound. It reminds me a lot of the single “Superstitious Heart” she released nearly two years before this EP, along with “Whatever Sets You Free.” I think these tracks were probably a warm-up for Business Pleasure!

This EP is a pretty quick listen. Its four tracks total just about a quarter of an hour. So let’s start with the opener, “Taste It!” I’ll warn you up front, the video is a little graphic. It mixes body horror and food porn into some kind of new genre. Food horror? Yeah, I’ll call it that. It’s not excessively graphic (there isn’t really much, if any, blood and guts) but it’s still a bit disturbing and not at all for the squeamish. (Watching it over again, I still squirm at parts – and I’m NOT squeamish!) And, just because, there are also drugs/allusions to drugs. This video actually got banned somewhere, though I’m not sure where. All I know is Victoria made a very disgruntled Facebook post about it with a screenshot of the ban message. (I still don’t think it’s THAT bad.)

I really, really dig the beat here. So hypnotic. She sounds like a siren drawing you to your doom, but in a club on the stage, instead of in the ocean on the rocks. Which makes the video quite fitting now that I think about it. It lures you with very pretty ladies doing very disturbing things to themselves. This is that after after hours sound I was talking about, by the way. She sounds so confident, so above everything. It’s a nice quiet ease into this EP.

“Heroine” is much more upbeat, while still being cool and hypnotic. The sound reminds me a lot of the techno/electronic music I used to listen to in high school. Very house and trance-y. It takes me back to Dirty Vegas (and their album of the name) as well as Télépopmusik and Genetic World, but mostly the former. A lot of this album has a familiar, older sound to it, while still being the fresh new music of Little Boots circa 2014.

Let’s take the next track “Business Pleasure,” for example. It’s even faster and more upbeat than “Heroine” and the sound goes back even further to the 80s. I just picture Victoria in a pantsuit with the big puffy shoulder pads. Hey, she almost went there with the album cover! It matches this song pretty well. Pinstripes suit, big fat wristwatch, and hair that looks like it’s got quite a bit of hairspray in there. Perfect blend of modern and retro.

little-boots-businespleasure

Last but not least, we’ve got “Pretty Tough,” almost dialing it back to the cool, smooth, mellow sound we started with. Again, she sounds bold and confident, the way she sings “If I was so innocent, would I be your prisoner?” and “You think I’m pretty, oh, well I can be pretty tough.” I’m wondering if this is about her label, Atlantic, at the time she recorded and released Hands. They were basically trying to mold her into being the next Kylie Minogue, something she was never meant to be. (She was meant to be Little Boots, of course!)

I will say, though, if you like Kylie Minogue, you will probably like Little Boots! This album is not Kylie at all, though. I think this is more the sound Victoria prefers. Yes, it’s different from her previous work, but there was a progression to get here. SO if you are a Kylie fan, start with Hands. If you like house music, then start here and work your way backwards. In any case, I think you’ll enjoy yourself!

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