Small, but perfectly formed. That's the cliché which flashes into mind, neon-bright, when you listen to Hands, with its blank, mystery-starved one-word titles and the pristine purity of its wholly electronic sound.
Winner of the increasingly influential BBC's Sound of 2009 poll in January, there will be those who will have been waiting for Little Boots' debut album while sharpening their knives. They will be disappointed.
Because Hands is a project – and rarely has that word been so apt – whose aim is to create immaculate future-pop, while apparently giving nothing away whatsoever about its creator. For a DIY artist, Victoria Hesketh – Stylophone in one hand, Tenori-On in the other – is strangely absent from her songs. Or at least, her personality is. When it isn't constructing dry metaphors about love and algebra, this strangely sexless record hides behind the baby pages of the rhyming dictionary (mixed-up girls in mixed-up worlds, going out tonight and feeling alright) and an anthology of aphorisms (moths, would you believe, being attracted to flames), leaving you nothing to engage with except its smooth surface.
And yet, despite this paradoxical problem – Hands' fault is in being faultless – I love it. What elevates Hesketh's music above that of countless inferior synthpop princesses – home-made or factory farmed – is the irresistible momentum of her melodies.
Take, for example, the sheer logic of the glacially gorgeous "Stuck on Repeat" (one of the singles of the past 12 months). Or "Remedy" (which could have been written for a proper pop star), "Symmetry" (starring The Human League's Phil Oakey), or "Tune Into My Heart", which miraculously survives sounding a little bit like "Turn Back The Clock" by Johnny Hates Jazz.
Towards the end of Hands, during the sublime "No Brakes", Hesketh herself – like one of the 1970s impressionist Mike Yarwood's "And this is me" finales – suddenly appears, with a Neil Tennant-esque spoken intervention.
A tiny triumph.
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