It seems impossible to objectively approach any of the forthcoming albums from the female trio who at the turn of the year had the hopes of 2009 put upon their sleight shoulders. Blackpool's Victoria Hesketh, aka Little Boots, is the first to draw her hand by releasing her debut 'Hands', whilst Elly Jackson and Florence Welch sit opposite her awaiting their turn. Since topping the BBC's pointless but intriguing 'Sound of 2009' in January, all eyes have been on Boots - mainly as she has been on every single magazine cover and website with spare column inches to fill. She speaks openly and frankly about the desire to be a proper pop star with no intentions of hiding behind hipster irony. However, having come to initial attention in the Summer of 2008 with a 6 minute club track produced by Joe Goddard of Hot Chip, as well as previously appearing in indie three-piece Dead Disco, she's clearly not a manufactured puppet.
'Hands' strikes to the very core of the argument of whether 'pop' music can be credible and does so with tracks that will please both sides of the divide. Make no bones about it, 'Hands' is a big pop album to rival Lady GaGa, Girls Aloud or Lily Allen and has a large dose of tracks that will entice the £50 Tesco buyer, the X Factor faithful and get Mum's tapping their fingers on the steering wheel during the school run. 'Remedy' is the most explicitly obvious pop song: sounding like a modern interpretation of a Smash Hits Poll Winner from the late 90's- if it doesn't have a choreographed dance routine expect teenage girls to be working on one ASAP. Similarly 'Hearts Collide' is the greatest Kylie track never recorded by the Australian.
Fans who have tracked Hesketh's rise will recognise tracks like 'Stuck On Repeat' and 'Meddle' both of which make an appearance amongst the more subversive side of 'Hands'. The former is now a three minute pop gem surely destined for the number one spot whilst the latter packs big beats with a monk like backing track reminiscent of Bloc Party's 'Banquet'. As electro pop seems to be the genre of choice in 2009 duetting with The Human League's Phil Oakey on 'Symmetry' feels like an obvious but mistaken decision- it seems to freeze the music in a no mans land between the present and 1981, killing the ability for 'Hands' to become timeless.
The overriding influence of Xenomania is felt at large on 'Hands' and whilst Brian Higgins et al have played no part in the making of this record, it must surely be acknowledged that such an album would not be deemed a contender in 2009 were it not for the writing team's stellar work over the past five years. Similarly, it's about time Greg Kurstin was recognised alongside the aforementioned as an important part of 21st century pop, his work on 'Hands' as well as with Ladyhawke and Lily Allen is always unique and fresh. Hesketh herself proves to be a fantastic writer too and this is perhaps the albums major flaw- it is a good Little Boots album, however it could be an amazing album for someone else. There is little personality shown or any insight into the performer's feelings. You could list the bands Hesketh likes but could you tell what she feels or what she has been through in life? Probably not.
So, is it possible to make credible pop music? On the strength of 'Hands' the answer seems to be a resounding 'yes'. With the pressures of hype, expectation and media-made competition it would have been easy for Little Boots to fall off the tightrope she has set herself. So it's a testament to her that 'Hands' is an exciting and modern pop record that patronises nobody and should well please an awful lot of people.