Little Boots – ‘Nocturnes’ and ‘Motorway’

Little Boots – Nocturnes,
Motorway review &
Recent developments regarding the new album

 

Releasing an album that nobody thought would see the light of day: Priceless

Releasing an album that nobody thought would see the light of day: Priceless

 

I’ve been looking forward to this album for a while, as you can see HERE, but in news that will shock even her closest relatives, Victoria ‘Little Boots’ Hesketh has quite literally ‘got on with it’ and officially released some details of her four-years-in-the-making sophomore effort. Here’s what we now know:

It has a name.

As we’ve known for several weeks, the album is called ‘Nocturnes’, which according to our good friend, Google, means: 
“A short composition of a romantic or dreamy character suggestive of night, typically for piano.” So far I haven’t heard much piano but basically it’s an album characteristic of the night, which presumably is best enjoyed at night. See: ‘Tonight, Franz Ferdinand’ and ‘Night Work’ by Scissor Sisters, other very good night-themed works, but not exactly worldwide smashes.

It has a release date.

‘Nocturnes’ will be released on 5th May 2013.

It has some crap artwork (see top).

Boots released a picture a little while ago, which people said was a bad choice of album cover, but now she has released the actual cover, which is actually worse. Parallels have been made between the Nocturnes cover and Ellie Goulding’s ‘Halcyon’ cover as well as numerous others, but to me it just looks like a Mastercard logo, perhaps suggesting that Boots is aiming for the Mastercard Album of the Year award at the 2014 Brit Awards and for that, we should commend her ambition.

There are 10 songs on it. (BOO!)

Back to the drawing board...

Back to the drawing board…

This tracklisting was announced to the music consumer of today via Instagram (what else!), but as a list of tracks written on a blackboard rather than iced onto cupcakes. That picture can be found below, but in case you’re not good at discerning information from crap photographs, or you can’t see chalk, that track list is:

Motorway (4:59)
Confusion (5:01)
Broken Record (4:33)
Shake (5:31)*
Beat Beat (4:18)**
Every Night I Say a Prayer *** (3:38)
Crescendo (5:42)
Strangers (6:39)
All For You (4:21)
Satellites (5:25)

*As you can see, previously released single ‘Shake’ is there, but its running time has been reduced by around 40 seconds.

** ‘Beat Beat’ and ‘Shake appear’ to be the other way around to that listed on the blackboard.

**‘Every Night I Say a Prayer’ is also there. There was rumour beforehand that the track’s title had been changed to ‘Every Night’ and in the blackboard photo it is listed as ‘Prayer’. To confuse matters further, the iTunes track list gives the full original title, and that’s the one we will stick with, as it is the better one. This is a tell-tale sign of the inconsistency that has marred this whole campaign.

 There is an obvious omission in the track listing

Confirming what had already been discussed in various online locations, the most upbeat ‘single’ of the three released, ‘Headphones’ , the one with a proper video and everything, has been left off the album, probably because it was too cheery. ‘Superstitious Heart’ is also missing, but I’ll let her off there. Back to ‘Headphones’, it is available to download from reputable online sources if you are made of money, but there are remixes available for free, which are very good, especially the Moon Boots remix, so that’s an option if you don’t have Adele’s bank balance, or if you have Little Boots’ bank balance.

[Side rant: This is just like what happened with Marina and the Diamonds leaving first single ‘Radioactive’ off the album but releasing it on a ‘deluxe version’. This kind of behaviour shouldn’t be encouraged. It’s just winding people up really. Just decide on a definitive track list and release that on one album. Why does everything always have to be standard / deluxe / re-released / with bonus tracks / reloaded / special edition / with extra remixes!? For one thing, it makes labelling on iTunes more complicated than it needs to be and secondly, it makes the artist look indecisive. I’m not going to buy one copy of each version; I’ll buy the cheapest anyway so nobody is fooling me into spending more than I need to.]

Little Boots has left 679 Records.

In news that will surprise nobody, Boots has changed label, leaving behind terribly-organised 679 Records, which is probably why the album plans are actually in motion now. The album is released on ‘On Repeat’, whatever the hell that is. It sounds like Little Boots is self-releasing them. Lord knows if this means she will be releasing it into shops (if record shops still exist by then) or simply selling it out the back of a VW campervan, but she is apparently signing 1000 copies so she’s ambitious sales-wise, we’ll give her that.

Continuing the artwork theme of 'Terrible'

Continuing the artwork theme of ‘Terrible’

You can hear ‘Motorway’ now.

The opening track, ‘Motorway’, for which you can see the artwork above (which is continuing the newly-introduced theme of ‘terrible’), can be listened to now. Even better, you can download it for free from her website HERE. There is a little box where you can enter your email to sign up to (and quickly unsubscribe from) her mailing list. We don’t need to be on that, since we follow her on Instagram, right? Here it is:

Here is a brief review:

You can’t exactly dance to it, but don’t let you put that off. Whereas this would normally mean that it’s no good, the song is a perfectly pleasant listen and it sounds even better when listened to at night and in the dark. I suppose that’s why she’s called the album Nocturnes. The song starts out pretty slow but does pick up as it goes along, with a drum beat eventually coming in, but it never really kicks off. At the start it sounds like it is going to lead into Marina’s ‘Fear and Loathing’, but that obviously doesn’t happen, although a mash-up of the two would be welcome.

The song seems to be about Victoria wanting to elope with somebody via the motorway. She sings ‘Meet me on the motorway, together we can make our great escape”. Although this is more or less fine as a lyric, I can’t help but think about how inconvenient it would be to meet somebody on the motorway.  Surely the thrill of eloping would be bigger if you were in the same car, or TOGETHER. With the price of petrol today, fleeing in two separate cars is going to cause you a lot of financial hassle, not to mention any potential tolls and subsequent parking. At one point you will have to ditch one of the cars, so what’s the point in taking it? Perhaps it would be quite romantic racing round the M25 and looking out of your windows at each other, but I’m a man of convenience so that doesn’t suit me at all.

The vocals are dreamy, there are lots of bleepy noises and the lyrics are not grating, although when she sings of her ‘heavy eyes on the road’ I can’t help thinking that if they were driving together, then they could take it in turns at the wheel, giving the other and opportunity to sleep and thereby avoiding any unnecessary stops at service stations, which would give the fuzz a chance to catch up with you. Music-wise, the song could do with a bit of a kick up the bum with a big middle-eight break down, like in Scissor Sister’s Night Work buzz single and career highlight ‘Invisible Light’ with lots of crashes and loud back ground chanting (Sir Ian McKellen monologue optional) but even without that it sounds pretty good anyway. Note: obviously by crashes I mean cymbals, not car crashes. However, in the tragic event of one of the cars crashing, which would clearly be terrible,, there would be half as many casualties as the two were, of course, riding separately. Silver linings… I’ve cracked the code!

I’ve mocked up a better single cover on MS Paint for everyone’s benefit, which embodies all the beauty of motorways.

"Together we can make out great escape..."

“Together we can make our great escape…”

Arbitrary rating: 8/10, very good but could explode a bit more towards the end.

With three good songs on it already, Nocturnes is probably worth buying already, but if you want to confirm this, or if you’re just a fan of ruining surprises, 1:30 long clips are available of all tracks on iTunes. You can also pre-order the album now in the obvious places, but you usually get it late when you do that, which is against the point really, isn’t it? Still if you fancy Little Boots scrawling an emotionless message on your CD case, go for it.

Don’t le me down, Hesketh.

 

 

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Albums Named After the Worst Track on Them

Albums Named After the Worst Track on Them

When I was writing about my anticipation of the new Little Boots album a little while ago, I re-listened to the original, rather than just listening to some choice cuts, and realised how bad the title track, Hands, is. So, I’ve dug a little deeper into my music library to see where pop and rock history could be rewritten to make everything a little neater.

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Subject A. Little Boots’ ‘Hands’

Although the debut Boots album had many good electropop songs on it, this dodgy piano ballad lent its name to the entire album, despite sounding like a Kate Nash demo. There is no Tenori-On, some of the vocals are pretty rough and, most worryingly, the lyrics are awful. EXAMPLE:

I said ‘Why don’t you go to the clouds,
I hear they’ve got a really good laboratory up there’,
So she went up to the heavens,
About quarter past eleven,
And they said ‘Now what seems to be the problem?’

A far superior name for the album would be ‘Stuck On Repeat’, which makes far too much sense for it to be bypassed, really. It was the name of one of the best songs on the album, for sure, and just imagine having an album called Stuck on Repeat! It would make it sound like it was so good that you couldn’t help listening again and again. That’s obviously not the case, what with the dip in quality to the end, but people might have been fooled into buying more copies.

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SUBJECT B. Arcade Fire’s ‘Neon Bible’

Arcade Fire’s second album had some huge depressing indie-rock tunes on it, all the way from opening track ‘Black Mirror’ right through to organ and accordion heavy closing tracks ‘No Cars Go’ and ‘My Body is a Cage’. Yet there was one huge blip in the middle of it all, track 3, ‘Neon Bible’, a 2:17 long blip, a needless whispery interlude, which simply plodded along with its ‘ne-on-bi-ble-ne-on-bi-ble’s until a real track comes on, one with some kind of power behind it, unlike Neon Bible, which has all the power of a wind-up torch.

A good name for the album would have been ‘Intervention’, named after one of the many songs on the album better than the real title track, and typical Arcade Fire, with heavy organs and Régine’s wailing backing vocals ‘YOUR LIFE WILL FALL APART’ etc. It would have also nicely followed debut album ‘Funeral’ and be a good start to a list of albums all named after depressing family events, perhaps followed by albums 3 to 5,  ‘Divorce’, ‘Family Reunion’ and ‘Conjugal Visit’.

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SUBJECT C. Marina and the Diamonds’ ‘The Family Jewels’

The Family Jewels being on the album depends on which album you’ve got; if you have the standard edition, the worst track is of course ‘Girls’, but if you have the iTunes version or the American version,  TFJ takes that particular biscuit. It could probably be improved as a track if it had a bit more work done to it, but it’s just Marina plonking a piano, and not in a good way, like in ‘Obsessions’. There is lots of bad rhyming, particularly in one bridge where Marina rhymes ‘it’ with ‘it’ and ‘fit’ with ‘unfit’. I understand the whole jewels/diamonds thing but I think my main problem with The Family Jewels is that as a title it is very genital. I suppose in a way it is a relief that she didn’t name the album ‘Shampain’, and ‘Oh No!’ would be as off-putting an album title as Franz Ferdinand’s ‘You Could Have It So Much Better’.

A better title for the album, from the selection presented by Miss Diamandis, would be ‘Obsessions’. I think it pretty much sums up all of the themes covered in this album, from being famous, to choosing crackers, to her obsession with America, or to her constant feeling of being an outcast. This obsessive aspect of her personality became quite clear when the album didn’t sell as much as she wanted it to and she did approximately 100 interviews complaining how crap she was and how she wanted to be a star. It is telling enough when you read an article about Marina on NME and the related articles have names such as “I worried people wouldn’t allow me to become a pop star” and “UK didn’t understand Electra Heart”, but that might just be the old NME making everything sound more dramatic than it is.

A further note: ‘I Am Not a Robot’ would be a great name for an album in today’s world of faceless, auto-tuned, disposable pop whores, but I’d rather that be saved for the next Nadia Oh album.

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SUBJECT D:  Lady Gaga’s ‘Born This Way’.

It’s not a great song, what with it being lyrically abysmal, allegedly plagiarising and graphically overblown, but it’s definitely not the worst on the album (COUGH – HIGHWAY UNICORN). The problem was that everything about the whole album campaign and content was so fake and completely unnatural: stage name, weird  facial implants, endless wigs, motorbike body and banal, shallow, faux-emotional lyrics, that Born This Way was unbelievably far from the truth and ‘Entirely Fictitious Construct’ would have been a more fitting name. Perhaps it was ironic? But then, I don’t think anything Lady Gaga does is ironic anymore.

By far the best possible title track on the album, ignoring the obvious Scheiße jokes, would be ‘Edge of Glory’. It would perfectly express how she had come so close to being the perfect new pop star, on the edge of glory, if you will, but then royally cocked it all up.

 

Is there anything I’ve missed?

Are there any more albums where the title track is piss poor and there
is in fact a more suitable one lurking in the track listing?

 

Most anticipated albums of 2013 PT 5 – Little Boots

Most anticipated albums of 2013

Number 1 : 

Little Boots – As yet untitled second album


Release date: March, rumoured or more likely whenever she gets around to it.
I’m probably risking any credibility I may have (none?) by saying Little Boots’ new album is my most anticipated of the year, as I am in an incredible tiny minority. For most people, Little Boots is one of those artists who is only ever brought up in conversation when she is used as an example of how far off the BBC’s Sound of… polls can be. People scoff that she came in at number one on the Sound of 2009 poll, in a list that included, in hindsight, far more successful names such as Lady Gaga, Mumford and Sons, Florence + the Machine and La Roux.
With Little Boots, the potential was definitely there. Her buzz single, Stuck on Repeat, was a Kylie-stylie, glitchy, Hot Chip for girls, electro-pop banger. The song was released for free as a Single of the Week on iTunes. She appeared on Jools Holland playing her nerdy, Japanese Tenori-on gadget. She topped the Sound Of ‘09 poll. All was looking very promising. Then, for some reason her label, 679, who also messed up Marina and the Diamonds’ album campaigns, decided to release New In Town as the first proper single, which was a bit different to what everyone had been expecting, a more pop and less dance-oriented song, with fairly simplistic lyrics (“I’m gonna take you out tonight, I’m gonna make you feel alright”) . The song charted at number 13, the album, Hands, charted at 5 and went gold.
It wasn’t until Remedy came out that Little Boots had a proper hit on her hands, and a bloody good one it was too. A massive pop tune, a huge chorus and a video featuring Boots playing on her little Tenori-on just like the good old days. She said herself that this video was far more ‘her’ than that of the past single. It had kaleidoscope effects. It had a bit that went OH-oh-OH-oh-OH.  It was great and accepted far more readily by the public and the club scene. Next single Earthquake floundered and that was it, Little Boots was regarded as a one hit wonder. Nobody remembers New in Town, naturally.
The last album was patchy. There were some great songs, such as all of those above and Meddle, a few songs that were alright, like Mathematics, and some that were crap, such as the title track (why would you name your album after the worst song on your album?). Some of the songs sounded like early Britney Spears rejects, unsuitable for a lass from Blackpool in her mid-twenties. It’s one of those albums where you add a few tracks to your playlists, then forget about the rest, which in this case is pretty fair, I would say.
What will the new album sound like?
After that big balls-up, why would I be looking forward to Little Boots’ new album? She’s taken a massive break, four years, to come up with the goods for album two, which is enough time to cut out all the filler to avoid the same situation again. Also handily, unlike Lady Gaga and Goldfrapp, Little Boots has released a few songs in the past two years which indicate what the new album will sound like. And that sound is quite exciting.
In her time away, Boots has been releasing countless unnecessary mixtapes and touring clubs as a DJ act for some reason and all this dance music she has been hearing seems to have had a nice effect on the sounds she is now making. The first of these new singles is Shake (at top of page), a six-minute-something electro-dance-house track with a thwomp-thwomp bass bit. Descriptive. You can tell she is all authentic and cool now because there is a record player in the video and only cool people have vinyl. Shake has a good robot voice that says SHAKE every so often, which is a plus point for me, again it sounds like Hot Chip done by girls. There are drum machines, synths, a bloopy-bloop noise throughout that I cannot identify and a La-la-la-la-la-laaah bit in the chorus. Everybody SHAKE ‘til your heart breaks indeed. It does make me want to shake actually. Not in a spasmodic or convulsive fashion, but rather I want to bust some of my white-man moves and grind my hips like only Shakira knows how. Thumbs up, Botitas.
The second single, Every Night I Say a Prayer, is another step up and it actually has a proper video. Granted, it’s not a very good video, but Victoria herself features doing her awkward-in-front-of-the-camera moves. That’s part of the appeal of Little Boots for me; her music sounds like she is desperate to make it big and be a star, but then she always looks very uncomfortable in front of the camera. I like reluctance. Her awkward shuffles remind me of my own early appearances on dance floors, like at my first and only school disco, where I just stood by the Haribo bar and snacked on dolphin-shaped sweets rather than doing the Macarena in a tracksuit with the popular kids. Every Night I Say a Prayer is pretty catchy, another more dancey song that previous work, with a mashing of piano keys in the chorus and a hook of I HAVE SEEN INTO THE FUTURE, like a foxy, one-woman Busted. No talk of triple-breasted women, though. In the video, aside from the very pouty and limber gentlemen who throw serious shapes around her, lyrics pop up on the screen, but at random moments and sometimes in the wrong places, like two fingers up to the recent, pointless trend of lyric videos. Every Night I Say A Prayer is available as a free download on Boot’s Soundcloud page, along with several remixes as well, if you fancy it.
Third single, Headphones, is a bit of a return to that more obviously pop sound exhibited in Boots’ first album singles, but it’s still good and it features another video of Victoria looking a bit awkward in front of the camera, but the video plays on this fact, with a sleazy back alley club where punters can listen to some Little Boots tunes on the supplied headphones and lose themselves in the music, having hallucinations of themselves as the confident figure they dream of being,. Little Boots herself goes from looking like a Countryfile presenter to a rather more confident B-list popstar, as do various other characters, some of whom are more frightening and transvestite than others. The song itself is more of the British Kylie Little Boots with another chorus consisting of LA-LA-LALALA LALA-LALA-LALALA, LA-LA-LALALA LALA-LALA-LALALA, which looks more annoying and repetitive than it really is when written down. I don’t think anyone else really wears their headphones at the disco because they don’t like the music, but it could perhaps speak to those who go to silent discos (Do those only exist in Freshers’ Week?) and find themselves singing out loud for everyone to hear. Finally that awkward moment expressed in song. This single is perhaps the weakest and least exciting of the bunch, but also the catchiest and the most easily accessible for a radio audience and it has some excellent remixes, most of which are available for free download on the Soundcloud page again. The best of all is the Dimitri From Paris remix, which has been eighties-Madonnified and sounds all the better for it. That was also free to download from Dimitri’s page at one point but that might all have changed and I can’t be bothered to check.
So there we have it, three bloody good songs which in theory should be appearing on the new album. Then again, Marina released Radioactive as a pre-album single and then ended up only including it as a bonus track on the deluxe version of the album. If these songs don’t feature, I’ll be fairly miffed. Some might argue that there’s no need to have previously available songs on the album when you can have new material, but that new material might be crap, so I’d rather have a more consistent album. Or you could just chuck it all on there and make a 20-track album that you pick your favourite bits from, but that is a bit lazy.
What about the artwork?
Boots’ imagery was pretty good last time, with all her triangles and kaleidoscopic bits and bobs (which were then stolen by everyone and used to more popular effect), but the single covers so far have been black and white photos of her with her hands in a headphone position and a saying-a-prayer position. I suppose artwork is the least of her concerns at the moment, as she is probably more worried about releasing an album and trying to claw back any relevance she may have had at one point in order to prove the doubters wrong.
What is the worst she could do at this point?
Releasing a patchy album would be inexcusable after a four year absence, I’m expecting heavier dance beats this time round and I’ll be disappointed if I don’t get them. It would also be a bit of faux pas to prevent people from buying your music, which she hasn’t realised, releasing a vinyl-only 12-inch double single last week under the pseudonym LB. It’s almost as if she doesn’t want people to hear it, but one of her team uploaded the full version of side 1, Superstitious Heart on Youtube. Does it count as leaking? Is any leaking accidental anymore? Who knows or cares? The song is by far the weakest of all those that have appeared so far and not very danceable. If she could just pull a Remedy-sized pop single out from under her headphones to entice the public once more,  she would be alright, but we’ll have to wait and see what promotion 679 get her nearer the time. Probably nothing. Or releasing a non-album track as a single.  Or going for first-week sales and then abandoning the whole campaign.
How good does this album need to be?
It remains to be seen whether anyone will really take any notice so it doesn’t matter how good the album is, really, but I’d like all the tracks on the album to be at least on the level of Shake, an 8/10.

Don’t let me down, Hesketh.

Part 1: Janelle Monae
Part 2: David Bowie
Part 3: Lady Gaga
Part 4: Goldfrapp
Part 5: Little Boots