Hands by Little Boots (aka Victoria Hesketh) is electropop for folks who want to shake their butts without disconnecting their brains. This ambition is most flagrant on “Mathematics,” in which Hesketh coyly drops the names of Fibonacci and Pythagoras. Almost every song, though, is built around extended and generally quite clever metaphors. In “Ghost,” haunting synth washes and a spooky multi-tracked chorus frame a minor-key quasi-march as Hesketh laments her man’s emotional inaccessibility—“Withdraw into your other world/I’m speaking but you do not hear a word… my skull is full of dreams and nothing fares it seems in the black air under the trees.” “Stuck on Repeat,” a repetitive ode to obsessive compulsion, weaves catchy synth hooks and layers of harmonized Enya vocals into three minutes of throbbing trancey goodness.
So, good—but not great. Hesketh can be an engaging singer: On “Meddle” she’s got the throaty, come-hither catch-in-the-throat thing down—when she growls “you don’t know what she hides” at the fade out, you can bet there are a fair number of guys and girls out there sighing, “Oh, but please, please let us find out!” With all the vocal effects, though, she often fades into retro-’80s anonymity. So, for that matter, do the songwriting and production—the guest spot by the Human League’s Philip Oakley is maybe a little too apropos. One by one the tracks work fine, but over the course of the entire album, I missed the flashes of funk, of shameless melodrama, of horniness and goofiness that made (as an example) Britney Spears’ Circus such a gem. Little Boots sounds like someone who could find a perfect mix of brains and pop smarts, but her debut isn’t quite there yet.