Since she emerged as Little Boots in 2008, Victoria Hesketh has been steadily regenerating, caressing her crystalline pop into bold new shapes. Released in 2009, the same year she topped the BBC Sound Of poll, her Gold-selling debut album ‚Hands‘ showcased a proper popstar willing to experiment, fusing massive pop hooks onto otherworldly electronic soundscapes, while critically revered follow-up ‚Nocturnes‘ succeeded in its aim to create experimental late night dance music built around classic pop songwriting. But it’s on excellent third album ‚Working Girl‘ where it appears she’s truly come into her own, creating a forward-thinking, constantly shape-shifting dance-pop album that you can delve headlong into.
Reflecting the freedom and control she now has over her own career – ‚Working Girl‘ will be released by her own On Repeat imprint in a new partnership with LA-based dance indie Dim Mak– it is a conceptually-driven album about trying to live in a hyper-active, paranoid and posturing modern world (but with massive donks all over the place). As well as a wry nod to the 1989 film of the same name, the album’s manifesto is multi-faceted.
“The album’s called ‚Working Girl‘ because it’s very much inspired by my journey from the beginning to the present, where I am essentially CEO of my own business and run an independent label,” Hesketh explains. “It’s also fun and empowering to turn the traditional associations of ‚working girl‘ on their head.”
‚Working Girl‘, which was started while the paint was still drying on ‚Nocturnes‘ was wrapped in a rather speedy 18 months, and unlike its predecessor was the first Boots record to be created completely free of a major label machine. It was preceded late last year by the acclaimed four-track EP, ‚Business Pleasure‘ (three of those songs also appear on the album). “Originally I planned to release the album as two EPs,“ she explains. „One was going to be ‚business‘ and one was ‚pleasure‘. But people still like albums, apparently.” With its tongue-in-cheek artwork taking visual cues from the intimidating cuts and oversized padding of early Nineties yuppie couture, the EP helped introduce the various themes of its parent album, which include “success, failure, addictions, anxieties, technology, happiness, London, and owning it.”
Featuring collaborations with super-producer-of-the-moment Ariel Rechtshaid (Haim, Charli XCX), UK house don Grades, regular collaborator Simian Mobile Disco’s Jas Shaw, Com Truise, and Jeppe Laursen (Lady Gaga’s ‚Born This Way‘). The Blackpool-born songwriter has created a unique, brilliantly intoxicating sonic world on ‚Working Girl‘ that places her back at the forefront of current dance sounds, and pulls at the parameters of pop whilst remaining true to its core.
Over the course of 11 songs, the listener is treated to spacious, spooked-out deep-house (the delicious title track as well as tension-filled dancefloor banger ‚No Pressure‘), ‚Real Girl’s glitching widescreen R&B (“debunking laughably unrealistic gender stereotypes“), throbbing nu-disco (the bass-heavy strut of empowerment anthem ‚Get Things Done‘), closer ‚Better In The Morning’s shuffling 90s pop (“about the walk of shame the morning after the night before”), and on the pristine ballad ‚Help Too‘, a heart-wrenching ode to keeping your head above water (“don’t you know I need help too?“ she sighs throughout the glacial chorus).
Indebted to Hesketh’s ongoing love affair with club culture and DJing, whereas the Tim Goldsworthy-produced ‚Nocturnes‘ was a veritable celebration of dance music through the ages, with its upfront kicks and sub bass scowls, ‚Working Girl‘ is clearly an album set in the here and now.
It’s not entirely without its lamenting though, namely a bygone era in the late 90s when „house music told stories” (she specify cites Everything But The Girl’s latter albums), as well as the minimal Noughties R&B of Cassie and Lumidee. But this time she’s chiefly focussed on futuristic beats, with constant eye on big-concept contemporary pop. “I’m completely passionate about what I do now,” Hesketh states, a glint of determination in her eye. “It has been a huge transition and is a lot of rewarding work, but I’m in complete control now.”