Three Imaginary Girls

Seattle's Indie-Pop Press – Music Reviews, Film Reviews, and Big Fun

Photo by Daniel Sannwald

When I saw Little Boots perform last fall, it was the final stop on her brief US tour, at the Independent, a 500-person capacity club in San Francisco. The show, like every stop on that tour, was sold out, even more impressive that it would be almost six months before her excellent debut album Hands would land in US record stores. It was a very exciting set by a gifted performer that could very well become a big pop star in the United States and certainly worth the price of airfare and lodging.

Little Boots is Victoria Hekseth, a twenty-five year old pop ingénue from Blackpool, UK and has quickly become one of my favorite pop stars today, enough so that I would fly to San Francisco to see her perform a week and a half before another trip to the Bay Area for Kylie Minogue’s first ever US show and that I took the name for my pop music blog from one of her songs. Her songs are irresistably catchy and well-constructed and easy to get lodged in your brain for hours at a time.

Her music is straight-forward electro dance pop, with much emphasis on memorable hooks and choruses, or to borrow a line from my favorite Lady Gaga song, “glamorphonic, electronic, disco, baby”. Hands was released in June of 2009 in the UK, where it charted as a top five album. It was released in the US just this Tuesday (March 2). The album is full of great, well-produced, -written and -polished pop songs, with the best songs (or at least my favorite) being the singles “New in Town” and “Stuck on Repeat.”

Hekseth worked with some of pop’s most gifted producers on Hands, including RedOne (who might best be known for helming Lady Gaga’s “Bad Romance” and helping it get to number two on the Billboard Hot 100 singles chart earlier this year), Joe Goddard from the dance pop band Hot Chip and Greg Kurstin, half of the LA pop duo The Bird and the Bee and producer of one of my very favorite records of 2009, Lily Allen’s It’s Not Me, It’s You. Of Kurstin, Hekseth told me in a phone interview, “I actually worked with Greg in my old band, Dead Disco, back in the day and he was one of the people who really, really encouraged me. It really gave me so much confidence because he said I was a really good songwriter.”

“Stuck on Repeat” opens with the chorus and is one of those great pop songs that can be both about loving music and crushing on someone. It’s only personal if you assign it a personal value and that’s where its brilliance lies. “You’ve got me stuck on repeat and I can’t seem to break free; you’ve got me stuck on repeat and I can only move to the beat” she coos in the breathy chorus. Hekseth told me “it was one of the first songs I had written but it wasn’t written with me in mind, I just wanted to write a really good pop song.” It was produced by Goddard and was written as she was leaving the indie dance pop band Dead Disco.

“New in Town” begins the album and it’s a deliriously addictive pop song. It has an irresistible confidence blended with a recession-era sensibility: “I don’t have a lot of money but we’ll be fine, I don’t have a penny but I’ll show you a good time” is part of the chorus. It has a futuristic beat that fits the harmonies and lyrics perfectly. It was co-written and produced by Kurstin. She told me it was “written when I first went to LA on my own. It was really cool and exciting but also really scary because I didn’t know anybody. I didn’t know what to do or where to go without a car, so it’s sort of about that mixture of excitement but also being a little bit afraid.” Another line from a verse bears that out “so don’t rely on people you meet; ‘cause no one is safe in these streets.”

At that show in San Francisco I saw in September, Hekseth made a joke on stage about how everyone in the crowd knew her songs, although her album wouldn’t be out until the following year. I couldn’t tell then if it was visible annoyance that internet file-sharing meant hundreds and hundreds of people had her music before it was legally available or relief that people were taking to her music. When I asked her about it in our interview, it was clearly the latter, saying it was “so cool and great” that her fans knew the music.

When Little Boots makes her way to the stage at Neumos on Saturday, it’ll be a stripped down version of the show British fans have seen, which incorporates a laser harp. Lasers have been a big part of her stage show, but US law prohibits them from being operated by just anyone and requires proper certification. Slightly disappointed, she said “this tour is going to be laser-free, unfortunately.” You can take comfort, though, in knowing that next time you see Laser Pink Floyd at the Science Center, you’re in the capable hands of a professional.

What will almost certainly be part of the live show is a Tenori-On, a Japanese sequencer with an LED screen that produces a variety of beats. It’s become a staple of her live shows and might be the first thing you notice on the stage and the most curious. That isn’t the only unusual (or maybe “uncommon” is more appropriate) instrument she plays. The New York Times asked this morning in a review of her New York show earlier this week, “did you know that she also plays the stylophone? It’s the electronic instrument that made the fat, squelchy glissando in David Bowie’s ‘Space Oddity’ and Kraftwerk’s ‘Pocket Calculator.’ It’s a tablet, about as big as a hardcover book, with a stylus attached.” Little Boots is the glamorous pop star that can talk shop with gear nerds and Tape Op subscribers.

Saturday night’s show should be a dazzling affair watching an electrifying performer and one of the most promising stars in the pop landscape today. The show I saw in San Francisco was remarkable because there was a sense as everyone was filing out of the club that they just saw a genuine pop star in a small club, a modestly-kept secret that, in a just world, wouldn’t stay that way.

{Photo by Daniel Sannwald}