The buzz surrounding Blackpool singer-songwriter Little Boots back in 2009 was so immense that even the BBC’s prestigious Sound Of… poll placed her above the likes of Florence + The Machine, La Roux and Lady Gaga as that year’s one to watch. However, despite all the championing, her debut album, Hands, disastrously failed to live up to commercial expectations and it was pretty much assumed that she’d disappeared back into obscurity.
However, four years on, Victoria Hesketh has managed to assemble an impressive behind-the-scenes team to give it another shot with unexpected sophomore, Nocturnes. There’s Simian Mobile Disco’s James Ford on the sultry bass-pop of “Shake,” Hercules & Love Affair’s Andy Butler on the glorious classic house pastiche of “Every Night I Say A Prayer” and former Madonna cohort Rick Nowels on the breathless pulsing electro of “Broken Record.”
Thankfully, for those dismayed at Little Boots’ transformation from ice-cool synth queen to sub-par Kylie Minogue wannabe on her first LP, the latter is one of only a handful of tunes which appear to have any commercial aspirations. For Nocturnes is a much more subtle, intriguing and chilly affair which suggests that having been burned by all the hype, she’s much happier going back to her bedroom pop beginnings.
“Motorway” and “Satellite” both resort to the kind of nonchalant synth-pop that Saint Etienne perfected on the likes of So Tough and Tiger Bay, the retro 808 snares and spacey effects of “Confusion” prove she’s now far more interested in the club sounds of the early 90s rather than the in-vogue early 80s, while the pounding piano chords and epic beats of “Crescendo” harks back to the kind of shimmering electronica that got everyone so excited about her in the first place.
There’s perhaps still a little too much filler for a ten-track record. “Beat Beat” sounds like it’s escaped from the Eurovision Song Contest while “All For You” is the pure definition of plodding. But although the idea of Little Boots as a genuine chart star has been all but obliterated, Nocturnes proves she’s far from spent as a creative force.