While Nocturnes doesn’t have the immediate impact or supremely sticky quality of Little Boots’, AKA Victoria Hesketh’s, high-caliber dance-pop debut, Hands, it does display a slow-growing (Or is that glowing?) charm that rings true to the album’s muted title. After the excitement of the glossy, cosmopolitan Hands, it was expected, or at least hoped, that Victoria would produce a Hands 2 that would storm up the pop charts and strut into the clubs. This is not that album…
The jaunty, carefree single “Headphones”, which dropped before the release of Nocturnes, turned out to be a one-off that is nowhere to be found here. And the dancefloor-ready “Shake”, which also dropped early and is represented here, is not a reliable indicator of what to expect on Nocturnes. Victoria has decided to diversify, strip down, and submerge her dance-pop sound, drawing heavily on 70s and 80s influences. While this divergence from the modern pop format of Hands is laudable, Victoria is let down by a lack of memorable melodies, a reliance on lyrical repetition, too-bare instrumentation, and a sometimes too retro-sounding style.
Victoria’s bid for pop star fame takes the form of the vapid, repetitive “Broken Record” (She even has the audacity to recycle her ‘stuck on repeat’ phrase from a song on Hands.) which is sponsored by hit-maker VEVO. Its brisk repetition ingratiates, then irritates, with a vocally clipped, emotionally flat, sing-talking chorus. Other songs like the repetitive and tinny-sounding “Confusion”, “Beat Beat” with its passé 70s groove, and the drowning-in-lyrics ballad “Strangers” don’t leave much an impression. By album’s end, even the spiraling upwards vocals and upbeat tempo of “Satellites” can’t save the Earth… I mean, the overall album-listening experience.
Yet there are some standout songs too, and parts of songs, like album-opener “Motorway”, which glides wistfully by like a combination of the softer side of the bands Client and Saint Etienne. “Every Night I Say A Prayer” brings in touches of 70s soul with its layers of choral backup vocals and also an 80s Madonna influence on the punchy chorus. “Crescendo”, while repetitive, features Victoria in fine, airy vocal form. Victoria emulates Kate Bush on the lovely chorus bits of “All For You”, evoking Kate’s classic “Running Up That Hill”. Lastly, the hands down highlight of the album is the aforementioned “Shake”, which is delightfully sweet confection perfection.