UK Release: June 8th
Anticipation can be a terrible thing.
After the BBC, various 'zines, and blogs proclaimed rising space-pop starlet Little Boots as The One To Watch for 2009 way back in December (guilty as charged!), the hype cloud hovering over poor Boots was muddying up her debut with impossible expectations long before its release.
First was the announcement of "New In Town" as the first single—a simple ditty with a predictable verse-chorus pop confection nowhere near the trance throbs of breakout track, "Stuck On Repeat," causing some fans to cry "too commercial" from the start. Following that was a larger offense—the video; a misguided attempt at keeping it "cool," featuring a deer-in-the-headlights Boots wandering in between break-dancing homeless citizens and horned-up teens performing fellatio in rhythm. It was unearthly—and not in the Little Boots kind of way.
But looking past the hyper-criticism of the campaign, Boots continued on her own path to debut. On June 8, the space cadet finally, officially landed in the UK. And her offering to the public? Why, her Hands, of course!
It's funny, but reviewing this album felt a lot like working with last year's The Fame—this however being a less pretentious, far superior rendition of Gaga's own. Ushering in the album with her lead single "New In Town," Boots hits hard at the offset of Hands: The strong, summer pulsations of "Earthquake" blend seamlessly with the surprisingly acceptable three-minute cut of "Stuck On Repeat." (Even still, the 7-minute original may well go down as the unappreciated "I Feel Love" for the 21st century.) Further on, the sexy minimal oscillations of "Click" prepare the way for the hands-in-the-air scorcher "Remedy," perhaps akin to comparison to Gaga's own celebration, "Just Dance": "No more poison killing my emotion / I will not be frozen / Dancing is my remedy, remedy."
However, much like Gaga's triple dunk of samey production ("Just Dance" is to "Poker Face" as is to "Money Honey"), Boots also seems to be digging through her musical recycling bin from time to time ("Meddle" sounds a lot like "Mathematics," as does the slower counterpart, "Ghost"). It's not as obvious as the aforementioned trio, but the songs do seem to blur into one large pop confection about two-thirds of the way into the album.
The last third diverges in a brilliant fashion, offering three soft spoken mid-tempos, including the sugary-sweet '80's drop of color, "Tune Into My Heart," and the acoustic title track, "Hands." The stripped down piano pop finish sounds a lot like the singer's weekly homemade YouTube song covers, proving Boots is more than just an intergalactic dancefloor sweetheart.
Though each song is superior in its own right, standouts include (obviously) "Stuck On Repeat," the mysteriously jazzy "Hearts Collide," and the chilly duet with The Human League's Phil Oakley on "Symmetry" : "Love me in perfect symmetry, be my everything. If you just love me in perfect symmetry, only you can make me feel complete," the two croon on the Kylie-esque joyride through futuristic electro lines and spacey synths. (Speaking of which, does anyone else see this as the perfect companion piece for Minogue's X album?)
So in the end, what are we left with? Hands is an accessible, immediate, and instantly re-playable body of work combining modern bass lines, smart lyrics, and space-age zings, zaps, and plops. Does it hold against the hype surrounding it? Not really. There's nothing groundbreaking or revolutionary hidden here—just a solid, unwavering collection of pop. Don't get me wrong, however: A pop album with all killer, no filler is very difficult to properly create, and for that, Boots deserves all the credit in the world. Had she debuted with little to no fanfare behind her, this might have well been heralded as the Second Coming of Pop.
For fans who have been following since the beginning of Boots' journey, some may be feeling a bit cheated by the album's commercial vibe and lack of unheard material, but fear not—I think she's got plenty more gems stored away in her spaceship for us in the not-so-distant future.
To enter to win a copy of Little Boots’ Hands, leave a comment with your thoughts on the tracks you’ve just sampled, or (if you’ve listened to it) the album. Make sure you leave your name/email address in the provided fields! Entries will be accepted until June 26th
Bradley Stern is a contributor here at Pretty Much Amazing. Be sure to check out his blog MuuMuse for his daily musings on pop music.