Hands, Victoria Hesketh’s first album under the moniker Little Boots, climbed to number 5 in the UK albums chart; the record was simple but effective with catchy EDM rhythms laced to Hesketh’s diverse vocal talents. The following release, Nocturnes, was nowhere near as successful as the first, to the extent that I’d kind of assumed that Little Boots had quit while she was ahead. Alas this is, luckily for us, not the case; the Blackpool-raised DJ/singer is back with Working Girl, and it’s an exciting piece.
Although the transition between the styles of her debut and its successor was perhaps starker, Hesketh’s development from Nocturnes evident in her new album is much more impressive. Hands was fun and easy to listen to, with Remedy and New In Town compelling people to dance all over the globe; however it lacked a substance or even a clear set of influences - push come to shove it was a pretty formulaic dance album. Now we hear the tracks off Working Girl, and there’s all the substance you could ever want, it’s an inventive album firmly based in the established realms of house and electro.
Turning over the record cover we see a tracklist which could easily be made into a story in its own right, but working through the album the listener observes a detailed tale forming around the recurring themes of identity and self-corruption in the working world. In fact even the themes are evident in the aforementioned tracklist, with titles No Pressure, Business Pleasure and Real Girl all being pretty transparent as to their tone and meaning.
Following the intro which satires a modern call centre’s automated messages, the title track booms out of your speakers with a pinging EDM rhythm that before you know it has transformed into a full-blown house track equipped with a tight balance between instrumental and vocals. By the halfway point of the next song on the programme, No Pressure, we come to realise there’s a pattern in the production of Little Boots’ new oeuvre; No Pressure starts with a repeated scale of synth notes behind an electronic accompaniment which might remind you of a Tycho track, but as with Working Girl (and other tracks later on) the backing transitions briskly and seamlessly into a mesmerising house beat, in the case of No Pressure there’s a strong millennial garage influence in this aspect.
As the album’s storyline progresses from the hectic entrance of the working girl into her new surroundings to her settling in to them, so does the style of song. In both Get Things Done and Real Girl, Hesketh gives the audience a taste reminiscent of her older material; the tracks are founded on a plain but powerful electro rhythm and looped harmonies. Unfortunately some uninteresting lyrics and slightly obvious synth sequences marred both these pieces for me, especially with their placement amongst other, so much more intriguing songs.
Striking a balance between the deep house influence and the slightly dated electro sound I mentioned in the previous paragraph were Taste It, a cocktail of Glass Animals-style drum beats and Grimes-esque vocals, and Heroine, a song you’d expect to hear in a Mediterranean casino. Both tracks share a common theme of identity loss, with Heroine providing a less potent message than Taste It, in which the singer employs a malicious, condescending tone to give the lyrics a sense of bite rare to pop artists like Little Boots.
Nearing the end of the LP the songs become more and more to do with desperation of someone who’s lost a grip on their life and indeed who they are themselves. My favourite chorus on the album comes in Help Too wherein the soulfully sung words “Don’t you know I need, don’t you know I need help too?” are masterfully entwined with the subtle synth backing. Soon after Help Too comes Paradise which slams the record back into the realm of house, a fittingly simple set of lyrics maintaining a message of desperation as the character in our story seeks any momentary relief from her environment.
Desire, which concludes Working Girl, acts as the ideal sound off; clunky drum beats layered expertly atop well-orchestrated basslines and guitar riffs beautifully complement Hesketh’s vocals. The lyrics and tone summarise the album’s message about the conflict between our chosen working lifestyles and what really matters – who we are. It’s not a perfect record, I’ve omitted some rather unimpressive songs, and sometimes its ideals are slightly cliché. However, it’s definitely correct to say that Working Girl was a step in the right direction for Little Boots. We should all keep our ears pricked for the artist’s further ventures, from pop into the world of electro-house.