little boots nocturnesYou know that feeling that only arises as a result of watching Eurovision? That nauseous glee that accompanies a man from Belarus singing like he’s got a pineapple in his colon; or the haughty guffaw at a trio of leather-clad Moldovans babbling over some mimed sub-Rihanna dance-pop. This, combined with the schadenfreude developed as a result of watching Britain’s latest entry fall flat on their arse, culminates in a very unique (and slightly mangy) emotional state. It’s one you just never seem to experience in any other instance.

Take that distinct emotional blend, and dilute it to a borderline homeopathic level, and that’s what I feel when listening to Little Boots’ most recent offering Nocturnes.

Little Boots, otherwise known as Victoria Christina Hesketh, has been flirting with the charts since her 2009 debut release Hands. It’s fairly easy to see why: all her work has that slick-production value and synth-pop feel that makes everything she does incredibly accessible. Nocturnes seems to be an attempt to move away from something as straightforward as this. Certainly, the album title would suggest a darker, colder, more electronic sound.

However, the album still seems ploddingly generic. Competing in a similar arena to the likes of Florence Welch, Bat For Lashes and Marina and The Diamonds: Little Boots just doesn’t seem to have the confidence to give Nocturnes the edge it needs to make her a standout name. Tracks like ‘Shake’ and ‘Every Night’ feel laboured, panel-beaten into shape to fill a chart-shaped hole rather than allowed to grow organically. Whether this should be attributed to Hesketh, or perhaps to an overbearing record label, is unclear. However the result is that several tracks are stunted, awkward and well… Eurovisiony.

There are (marginally) brighter moments; ‘Motorway’ sounds as if it has been allowed a chance to be fleshed out, and the 5-minute long opener does sound all the better for it. But the album’s more serious moments still can’t atone for the pop-blandness that seeps through ‘All For You’ or particularly the grating ‘Beat Beat’, which proves that whilst Daft Punk’s ‘Get Lucky’ mixed modern electronic music with 70s disco, it really doesn’t mean that everyone should.

Perhaps I shouldn’t be too critical. Sophomore releases are always fraught with danger, and Little Boots should at least be praised for some attempt to evolve her sound. But ‘Nocturnes’ falls into so many pitfalls along its way to be taken seriously that it does suffer from sounding like bland euro-pop fare. The problem is its lack of extremes. The dark bits aren’t dark enough, and the pop bits aren’t poppy enough, leaving us with something that’s neither here nor there.

There are some saving graces; indeed Little Boots gets it right on exactly two occasions. ‘Strangers’ is sufficiently moody enough to be considered interesting, building and bubbling along its considerable duration. The crystalline synths paint a beautiful backdrop for Hesketh’s vocals rivalling Yeah Yeah Yeahs at their most anthemic. It has the maturity of more established and serious acts such as Young Galaxy, and manages to save some face.

The other track of merit, ‘Broken Record’, has a Kylie-like confidence and swagger, appearing effortless compared to the try-hard attitude of the rest of the album. The dark, throbbing bass and effects-swathed vocals creates a very competent and forceful dance floor anthem.

Unfortunately, the album carries so much baggage that these gems are drowned in a sea of churning shod. The album isn’t awful, purely because it’s too safe. When risks are taken on Nocturnes they pay off. However these risks are too few and far between to have their desired impact.

Little Boots will probably have a modest degree of success with this album; it’ll almost certainly chart well. But the lack of consistent high quality means very few people will take it truly to heart. Put simply, this is dance music with the stabilisers left on.

5 out of 11

Release Date 06/05/2013 (On Repeat)

Sean Fitzpatrick

Manchester born noise-enthusiast with a compulsive need to write. I’m Currently stranded on the South-Coast in Brighton, but I return to the motherland whenever possible to bask in MCR’s incredible music scene.