ARTIST: Little Boots.

ALBUM: Hands.


RELEASED: 8 June 2009.

GENRE: "Electro-pop"/"Dance-pop".

RATING: ****

BBC's Sound of Music 2009 winner justifies her billing.

VICTORIA Hesketh was already well known for her small feet and her cute image before the release of her stage persona Little Boots' album, Hands in June.

However, since the record's inception upon the charts, with the 25-year-old Thornton (near Blackpool)-born singer gaining an impressive #5 slot, Boots has gathered interest from the music fraternity seemingly curious about the 1980s revival currently ensuing.

2009's BBC Sound of Music winner has become the latest artist to join the string of electro-pop musicians (particularly female) competing with Lady Gaga, La Roux, Florence and The Machine and Ladyhawke in the mainstream pop battle.

The multi-instrumentalist, a champion of the Japanese musical sequencer the Tenori-On and who can also play the synthesizer/keyboards/piano and stylophone, has offered a pure pop album with flashes of the staple dance aesthetic hotly sought-after by mainstream music audiences devoted to Britney Spears, Girls Aloud and The Saturdays' sassy, polished appeal.

Hands is a contemporary tribute to the 1980s with Little Boots' fresh and introspective songwriting technique utilising the sizzling synthetic robotic frequencies and precise-yet-hedonistic flashes of drum machine rhythms most appropriate for an artist who has also learnt to become a DJ.

Hands is furthermore in essence a melodious, rhythmic, clap-infested and inventive album which pays homage to artists ranging from Kraftwerk to Blondie to Hot Chip and most charmingly, shows Little Boots' euphoric endorsement of the synthesizer and electronic music, something which many audiences and musicians are either ashamed to like or are afraid of.

And with her recent DJ pedigree, Little Boots' electronic wizardry surfaces with assistance from American producer Greg Kurstin (a collaborator of Gwen Stefani, Britney Spears and Lily Allen) who she employed because of his plethora of synthesizers and his own renowned reputation as a successful pop producer, helping to complete the polished product.

Indeed as an album it rarely disappoints, with the opener, New In Town - a #13 hit in the UK singles chart - emphatically clattering and bleeping with seductive intent and "taking you where the music plays for free" as Little Boots helps you on a reality journey parallelling her isolated experiences in Los Angeles and her warm reassurances glow amidst slick soaring choral melodies and endearing dancey drum beats.

It is not hard to see then why her album was much anticipated and this similar vein is maintained on the next track, Earthquake, a grower by all accounts with swirling synth and panning basslines adept for an artist teetering betwen the pop and dance markets. But what helps Little Boots gain her great credit is the refreshing pop rhymes and her heart-warming embrace of pop as something that can be cheesy, but informative and seductive, which Kylie Minogue and Madonna have never been afraid to exhibit.

Earthquake's message of "Every clap of thunder, only makes me stronger on the inside" is just one example of the inward self-assessment by the ex-Dead Disco member who portrays lyrical storytelling and advice through her own experiences in a melding of pop and dance's most exuberant elements.

Meanwhile, Stuck On Repeat is the dancefloor anthem tinged with a pop restrain, with its chiming, striking melodies and Donna Summer/Giorgio Moroder I Feel Love Tenori-On bass synthesizer rhythm perfectly encapsulating the meeting between two mediums and the lyrical desperation of "Everytime I try, something comes and pulls me back to the start" highlights Little Boots' delve in to her honest, fairytale songwriting based upon its subtle realism and a musical elegance unafraid to showcase the singer's talents.

Other highlights include one of the most-flowing and perhaps underrated tracks both lyrically and musically, Click, with Ultravox-like synthesizer making it extremely grandiose and the summer pop anthem, Remedy helped with seductive vocoder and punky-shouted chorus lines and is probably the most Little Boots allows herself to let go on the album and is a song Kylie, Gwen and other divas alike would feel proud to have in their repertoire.

Meddle meanwhile is Lady Gaga-like with its shuffling beats, R n B backing vocals and her delivery is equally alluring helped by the booming, fuzzy background bass and cyber-synth melodies while Mathematics' cute lyricism, Symmetry's pure pop demeanour - featuring solid vocals by ex-Human League frontman, Phil Oakey - which is one of the best tracks on Hands and No Brakes' glossy and synthetic voice chorus and Boots' spoken messages will reel in audiences who favour Pet Shop Boys tongue-in-cheek lyrical and deadpan delivery and Depeche Mode and Orchestral Manoeuvres In The Dark's uplifting melodies.

Negatives on the album are few, but it doesn't mean the release is devoid of criticism. It is perhaps an illusion, but Little Boots' production and delivery is almost trying to match every contemporary musician, with New In Town a Ting Tings-esque number, Earthquake having the Girls Aloud melded with Goldfrapp aesthetic and Ghosts having the shuffling of Kate Bush's songcraft. Furthermore, with Kurstin's production, it's guaranteed that on tracks like Remedy, Meddle and Hearts Collide, there is a Stefani, Spears-like sound to the output, which although isn't demeaning, it perhaps restricts Little Boots' individualism.

And despite the glossy, shimmering and sublime production, it is no Pet Shop Boys' Please or Madonna's Like A Virgin. Enthusiasts of '80s pop music used to the Sweet Dreams of Eurythmics or Yazoo's Situation will sense the synthetic string and disco grandeur with witty-yet-hedonistic mantra is never going to be repeated in the same sparkling, touching format today which although isn't Little Boots' fault, it seems to ring true of modern synth/electropop artists trying to recapture the golden era.

Finally, her lyrical introspection surrounding love and relationships does prohibit her from offering much greater appeal than targeting a teen audience or those in their twenties, guaranteed to indulge in cutesy pop. And perhaps that is her problem. Cuteness. Some Annie Lennox harshness or Alison Goldfrapp melancholy may add to her music. But the difficulty there would be that it would remove her appealing fun, honesty and intelligent pure pop songwriting and enticing demeanour.

However, if you are looking for a package capable of delivering lyrical and musical wonder, which also has the potential to fit perfectly in to a dancefloor mould, look no further than the solid debut by the accomplished, aspiring, young, genuinely very charming, self-deprecating, funny and intelligent artist, Little Boots, rivalling La Roux and Lady Gaga in the sassy synthpop of 2009.

DOWNLOAD: New In Town, Earthquake, Stuck On Repeat, Click, Remedy, Symmetry, No Brakes.

Small feet, but big production: Little Boots - Hands