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Little Boots’ ‘Nocturnes’: Album Review

The media narrative on Victoria “Little Boots” Hesketh’s sophomore album, the one in which an artist gets pushed down by the heavy hand of the modern music industry…that story ends here. Because it doesn’t matter. In a year, no one will remember the delays or the lengths to which Hesketh went to make sure she realized her own vision. What they will remember is simple: Nocturnes (out today, ) is a solid work of cinematic, nighttime disco.

Album opener “Motorway” sets an elegiac tone with a beautiful 40-second intro before evolving into a narrative of two lovers — or friends? — escaping their small town “for the unknown.” With percolating synths and angelic harmonies, the mood Hesketh creates is reminiscent of Tangerine Dream‘s “Love On A Train” (see the movie Risky Business); both tracks are like smooth, slow motion bullets.

The predominant mood on Nocturnes is, aptly, introspection…teardrops at midnight. Most tracks stretch out with instrumental passages that allow Hesketh to create a proper emotional arc. The seven-minute “Strangers” harkens back to the Moroder-esque synths of the first Little Boots single, “Stuck On Repeat.” This one, a monolith of sad disco, matches beautiful electronics with a dysfunctional affair:

You go out drinking to forget
And when we meet by accident
Or self-conscious coincidence
There’s an uncomfortable suspense
A thousand words hanging unsaid.

The album isn’t all dark dancefloors and glowing dashboards. The up-tempo “Beat Beat” is the blond sister to Daft Punk‘s current, bass-heavy “Get Lucky.” If tunes were outfits, “Beat Beat” is a zippered jumpsuit: it slinks along to a wicked groove-driven instrumental bridge. The anthmic pop of “Crescendo” boasts a spine tingler moment at 2:49 when the music drops and a multi-tracked Hesketh chants, “We keep getting louder, and I can’t stand the noise.”

For “Every Night I Say A Prayer,” Hesketh collaborated with Andy Butler of Hercules And Love Affair on a shape-throwing piece of house music. The legendary children of New York’s Vogue houses will find she’s supplied them with a new soundtrack. “Shake” has a similar indie disco vibe. The album’s centerpiece, it culminates in a glistening breakdown at the 3:40 mark: “There’s only one thing you should really know / I tell you this place is about to blow,” she cooly sings before the arrangement explodes into a dancefloor Moment.

It all winds up with album closer “Satellite,” which mainlines the same euphoria Kylie Minogue captured so well on her 2010 LP, Aphrodite. Like a party ending with 4 a.m. fireworks, it pings and pops and explodes into spiraling synths, beats and rat-a-tat tat percussion.

Hesketh seems warmer and more assured than ever in the environment she’s created on Nocturnes. With a production assist from New York dance producer Tim Goldsworthy, she’s gotten so comfortable in her musical skin that she makes it sound effortless. The result is a rare bird: a second album that far exceeds the debut.

Idolator Rating: 4.5/5

Stephen Sears

 

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