Friday, January 23, 2015

Track By Track Throwback: Nocturnes by Little Boots
Victoria Hesketh was just a fun Kylie-loving synth-playing British woman that was destined for greatness. Then she donned a pair of kicks in 2008 and became the unstoppable force that was Little Boots. Having been responsible for the best song of 2009 and the best album of 2009, Little Boots has a special place in my heart for being the first artist to make me really fall in love with music in a way I did not think was possible. Since then, Ms. Boots has set up her own label, perfected the art of dark disco, and released the 3rd best album of 2013. With a brand new EP out and the possibility of reclaiming album of the year in 2015, I decided to break down her masterpiece Nocturnes. (On a personal note, JL this is for you)

1. Motorway

While her debut album Hands started off with a bang thanks to "New In Town," "Motorway" eases the listener into Nocturnes' world of late night musings and wistful promises of the future. It's much darker than anything Little Boots had done before but it still has classic touches of genius with the best line being "they had lives, they had plans, they could never understand." It acts as a call of action to the listener and once you accept the new turn in Little Boots' musical direction you will realize just how magical the new album can be.

2. Confusion

One of Nocturnes' many strengths is that most of the songs are above the conventional 4 minute cutoff for pop songs. Most of the time, this can make way for a pretty exhaustive listen, but every song feels like it fits the longer song structure perfectly. "Confusion" is the one that probably benefits the most from this structure. The Italo disco strings mixed with Victoria's chirpy echoes make the song seem club friendly enough without detracting from the sound of the album as a whole. This probably should have been the 3rd single is what I'm trying to say.

3. Broken Record

With "Broken Record" being the first official single from the album, Little Boots followed the same path of making us think the whole album would sound like a throbbing onslaught of electro amazingness that would not leave your head much like her first big hit "Stuck On Repeat." Indeed, it has all the signatures of a major tune: church bells, a ravey breakdown before the middle 8, and self-referencing broken record repeats. Sometimes, it just feels a little too genius for its own good but it will always get you moving.

4. Shake

This was the first official piece of music we heard after the Hands-era and it made me confused for too many reasons to count. I mainly wanted more of the same but what I got was a chugging monster of a track that was originally a staggering 6 minutes long. But before I knew it, the song had worked its way into my head and soon the flashes of brilliances blinded me. The huge synth riffs that come after the chorus are one of the best sounds in the past 5 years of music. Regardless of the hypnotically bizarre video, "Shake" was the signal of Little Boots' future and after accepting that, the album opened itself up to multiple dimensions of amazingness.

5. Beat Beat

This is the big one. In the middle of all the gritty disco noir pulsations of the night, "Beat Beat" feels like going out the next morning with a renewed sense of purpose. It's a bright house-tinged 80's groove that brings a smile to your face within the first 10 seconds. It goes to show that Victoria still knows her way around a proper pop tune. It could have been a massive hit for Kylie Minogue or Goldfrapp but luckily Little Boots kept it, and it elevates the whole album to the pop stratosphere. If nothing else, "Beat Beat" should have been the single that proved to everyone Little Boots deserved to beat Lady Gaga in that poll a couple of years ago. (Both of them are amazing and I love them both with all my heart, don't attack me Monsters!)

6. Every Night I Say A Prayer

Little Boots has a skill of taking one word titled-songs and breathing life into them in various amazing ways. With "Every Night I Say A Prayer," the music is the thing that actually brings the song together. Crafted with the talented Andy Butler of Hercules & Love Affair fame (really, he knows what he is doing), "Every Night" has that air of alluring craving for the dance floor that makes you think of the first time you watched Paris Is Burning. And any song that can cause spontaneous vogueing is an NSOTP favorite in our books.

7. Crescendo

This is another uplifting moment of the album. The song itself follows the course of a frustrating argument but the best part is when everything falls out after the second chorus and slowly builds up, piece by piece, to a major roar by the end of the song. You could even say the song builds to a CRESCENDO!!!!! (Okay, I regret that but the song is another must listen on the album.)

8. Strangers

From the heights that were scaled on "Crescendo," Little Boots pauses to give some room to breathe on the space behemoth that is "Strangers." The 6 and a half minute epic would make Giorgio Moroder proud and could also act as the planet's anthem if we ever made contact with extraterrestrial life. It possibly also has the most beautiful lyrics, describing the decay of a relationship and the experience of that person without knowing what to do. It even includes a key change with hope for a new beginning. Just wonderful.
 The relatable words provide a lovely contrast with the futuristic production, which is probably the niche in pop music that Little Boots has carved for herself.

9. All for You

Probably the darkest offering Victoria gives us on Nocturnes, "All for You" sees Little Boots explaining the motivation for her actions against another chugging production that illustrates her vision of a midnight siren in a discotheque. While a pleasurable listen, this is probably the one song on the album that does not fit because of its heavy atmosphere and overall lack of levity found throughout the album.

10. Satellite

The last song and last single off the album sees us slowly escaping the night's mystique as day breaks. "Satellite" may not be the strongest track on the album but Little Boots could not have picked a better album closer. The New Wave referencing song feels like the perfect halfway point in Little Boots career as a whole. It has all the charm and pop touches that made us first fall in love with her, the light and shade in the nocturnal disco that she has cultivated on Nocturnes, and the sense that Little Boots knows what she is going to do next. I can't really ask for more from one of my favorite pop singers.

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