Hands (Little Boots album)

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Hands
Studio album by Little Boots
Released 5 June 2009 (2009-06-05)
Recorded 2008–09
Genre Synthpop
Length 44:59
Label 679, Atlantic
Producer Fred Ball, Joe Goddard, Semothy Jones, Kid Gloves, Greg Kurstin, RedOne, Jas Shaw, Richard "Biff" Stannard
Little Boots chronology
Hands
(2009)
Nocturnes
(2013)
Singles from Hands
  1. "New in Town"
    Released: 25 May 2009 (2009-05-25)
  2. "Remedy"
    Released: 17 August 2009 (2009-08-17)
  3. "Earthquake"
    Released: 16 November 2009 (2009-11-16)

Hands is the debut studio album by English recording artist Little Boots. It was released 5 June 2009 by 679 Recordings and Atlantic Records to generally positive reviews. Many critics complimented its "well-crafted" pop songs and "diverse" production. Hands primarily features songs about love, relationships and heartbreak, and takes influence from a variety of music styles such as disco, 1980s synthpop and Eurodance. The album reached the top five in Little Boots' native United Kingdom, and its first two singles, "New in Town" and "Remedy", charted inside the top fifteen and top ten, respectively.

Recording and production[edit]

Little Boots began recording her debut album in Los Angeles with Greg Kurstin and Hot Chip's Joe Goddard in early 2008.[1][2] While in Los Angeles, she spent two days recording with RedOne. She initially found working with RedOne intimidating because their collaboration was expected to produce a hit song.[3] Following the BBC Sound of 2009 poll, which Little Boots won, her record label, management and A&R team scheduled recording sessions with Dr. Luke. These sessions, however, never took place.[3] In January 2009, Little Boots began to compile the album's track listing, a difficult process for the singer, who compared it to "cutting a limb off".[1]

The album's title comes from the song "Hands". Included on the album as a hidden track, its lyrics tell the story of a person with a broken heart who tries desperately to mend it.[4] The album cover for Hands was "inspired by old Italo covers like Patrick Cowley and Amanda Lear that have lots of space and fantasy themes." According to Little Boots, the artwork is a mixture of the past and the present, a reflection of the musical styles featured on the album.[5]

Composition[edit]

Little Boots performing at the Apple Store in London in May 2009 while promoting the album

"New in Town", the album's opening track, was inspired by the "seedy side of life" in Los Angeles and the strange individuals Little Boots met while recording Hands.[2] It was chosen as the album's lead single because "it's very bold and colourful and doesn't really sound like anything else out there."[6] Released on 25 May 2009, "New in Town" peaked at number thirteen on the UK Singles Chart.[7] The album's second track, "Earthquake", received positive reviews from critics, with one reviewer stating that it was a "strikingly affecting, emotionally naked galactic banger".[4] The song was released as the album's third and final single on 16 November 2009, peaking at number eighty-four on the UK Singles Chart.[8] "Stuck on Repeat" was composed with Australian singer Kylie Minogue in mind.[9] Inspired by the disco era, it was compared to Donna Summer's 1977 song "I Feel Love" by music critics.[10] The fifth track on the album, "Remedy", was released on 17 August 2009 as the second single from Hands and managed to outpeak its predecessor, reaching number six on the UK Singles Chart.[7]

"Meddle", the album's sixth track, was released as a limited edition single in August 2008.[11] Described by The Times as a "barnstormer" and a "disco/drum and bass hybrid",[12] it reached number ninety-seven on the UK chart.[8] "Ghost", a song about being ignored by a loved one, received mixed reviews from critics.[13] In a review for The Guardian, Alexis Petridis described it as a "clunky attempt to blend electronics with Brecht-and-Weill oompah".[14] The song "Mathematics" is inspired by Sylvia Plath's poem Love Is a Parallax. In the song, Little Boots uses mathematics as a metaphor for love.[15] The ninth track, "Symmetry", a duet with The Human League singer Philip Oakey, was a "dream" for Little Boots. A fan of the band, she was surprised when Oakey agreed to provide vocals for the track.[1] The synth ballads "Tune Into My Heart" and "Hearts Collide" were compared to Minogue, with one reviewer referring to "Hearts Collide" as the "greatest Kylie track never recorded by the Australian".[16] The closing track from Hands, "No Brakes", features a spoken interlude which was compared to the Pet Shop Boys and Mike Yarwood.[17]

Promotion and release[edit]

To promote the album, Little Boots did several performances worldwide. Her first televised appearance was on Later... with Jools Holland on 7 November 2008. She was invited to perform on the show after posting songs on the social networking website Myspace.[18] On 4 March 2009, Little Boots appeared on the American late night television show Last Call with Carson Daly. She was interviewed by Daly and several clips from a Los Angeles nightclub performance were shown.[19] Little Boots performed "Stuck on Repeat" using the Tenori-on on the 11 May 2009 edition of BBC Breakfast.[20] She returned to Later... with Jools Holland on 15 May 2009, becoming the only artist to perform on the show twice prior to having an album released.[18] This was followed by an appearance on the BBC Radio 4 programme Woman's Hour on 27 May 2009.[21] She also appeared on Friday Night with Jonathan Ross on 3 July 2009.[22] On 26 May 2009, Little Boots performed four songs from Hands at the Apple Store in London, England.[23] These songs were included on the digital extended play iTunes Live from London, which was released exclusively through iTunes on 1 June 2009.[24]

"Meddle" was featured on the ninth episode of the third series of the British teen drama series Skins, titled "Katie and Emily" and originally broadcast 19 March 2009.[25][26] Also in 2009, "Meddle" was featured in an advertisement for Victoria's Secret.[27] "New in Town" is included on the official soundtrack to the 2009 American comedy horror Jennifer's Body,[28] and was also used on the American television shows 90210 (which used the Fred Falke remix),[29] Friday Night Lights,[30] Ugly Betty[31] and Mercy.[32] "Remedy" was featured on the 9 October 2009 episode of the American science fiction series Dollhouse, titled "Belle Chose",[33] as well as on the fourth episode of the third series of the BBC comedy series Gavin & Stacey, broadcast 17 December 2009.[34] The track "Click" was featured on the sixteenth episode of Melrose Place, "Santa Fe", aired 30 March 2010,[35] and later on the twentieth episode of the first season of The Vampire Diaries, "Blood Brothers", aired 29 April 2010.[36]

The album was released in the United Kingdom on 8 June 2009 as a CD and digital download. Little Boots' official website offered an exclusive bundle for pre-order which included the CD, a limited edition galactic speckled 12-inch vinyl copy of the album and a thirty-three-minute 'Hands On' mix MP3 featuring album material, non-album tracks and remixes. The 12-inch vinyl was limited to 1,000 copies.[37] Due to overwhelming demand, the limited edition 12-inch vinyl was released on 10 June 2009, two days later than had previously been announced.[38][39]

Critical reception[edit]

Professional ratings
Aggregate scores
Source Rating
Metacritic 68/100[40]
Review scores
Source Rating
Allmusic 4/5 stars[41]
Clash 5/10[42]
Digital Spy 5/5 stars[13]
Drowned in Sound 7/10[43]
Entertainment Weekly B+[44]
The Guardian 4/5 stars[14]
The Independent 4/5 stars[45]
NME 7/10[4]
Pitchfork Media 5.9/10[46]
The Times 4/5 stars[47]

Hands received generally positive reviews from music critics. At Metacritic, which assigns a rating out of 100 to reviews from mainstream critics, the album received an average score of 68, based on 20 reviews.[40] In a review for musicOMH, Michael Cragg called it "a well-crafted, glorious pop record".[48] Clash reviewer Joe Zadeh disagreed, stating that the album "falls victim to attempts to reach beyond more boundaries than necessary, and thus ironically loses the concentration of the more earnest listener."[42] David Renshaw of Gigwise described Hands as "a big pop album" that "rival[s] Lady GaGa, Girls Aloud or Lily Allen."[16] Ben Thompson of The Observer complimented the album's "diverse" production and called the song "Symmetry", a duet with Philip Oakey, a "joyous cross-generational head-to-head".[49] The Guardian's Alexis Petridis referred to Hands as "a surprisingly modern-sounding record from an artist who has been depicted as in thrall to a kitsch vision of 80s pop".[14] Ian Wade from BBC Music praised the album as "a solid pop debut, the sort of album which unites lovers of pop, young and old", and compared it to albums by Goldfrapp, Kylie Minogue and Annie.[50] NME critic Emily Mackay wrote that "Little Boots gives us an inspiring story of self-realisation" and called the album "brilliant".[4]

Peter Paphides of The Times named "Stuck on Repeat" the album's "best moment" due to its "exquisite vulnerability".[47] Andrzej Lukowski of Drowned in Sound remarked that "Hesketh can write a damn good pop song, and whether that's what caused the initial buzz, it's something hard to deny when presented with the cold, hard proof of Hands."[43] The Independent's Andy Gill felt that the album has "safe, conformist electropop grooves following lines as straight and satisfying as supermarket aisles", concluding that "the result is a form of attention-deficit pop: for while 'New in Town' and 'Earthquake' have an instant appeal, it's striking how quickly one's palate is sated by their pop-rock fizz: the listener who can play Hands all the way through is either dedicated, or dead."[45] Paul Schrodt of Slant Magazine argued that while the album "smacks of trying too hard", most of the songs "are imminently playable on their own terms, whether it's a Robyn-style, slow-burning heartache ('No Brakes') or enjoyably Eurotrash camp ('Hearts Collide')."[51] Marc Hogan, writing for Pitchfork Media, labelled Hands as "a mainstream pop effort with an indie-friendly narrative", while noting that the album's "most distinguishing characteristic is an unusual level of meta-pop self-awareness."[46] K. Ross Hoffman of Allmusic viewed the album as "a solid batch with several standouts [...] but no space-filling duds or truly weak links".[41] Melissa Maerz from Entertainment Weekly commented that "musically [Boots is] great at taking superstar glamour to the streets: It's megaclub gold for the broke-ass rest of us."[44]

Commercial performance[edit]

Hands debuted at number five on the UK Albums Chart, selling 19,952 copies in its first week.[52] During its second week, it dropped to number forty.[53] Following the release of "Remedy", the album returned to the top thirty on 23 August 2009 for four consecutive weeks.[54] On 4 September 2009, the album was certified gold by the British Phonographic Industry (BPI) for shipments in excess of 100,000 copies within the UK.[55] Hands debuted at number twenty on the Irish Albums Chart for the week ending 11 June 2009,[56] falling to number forty-four the following week and eventually dropping off the chart.[57] On the issue dated 27 June 2009, the album debuted at number nineteen on the European Top 100 Albums chart,[58] where it spent four weeks.[59]

Elsewhere, Hands peaked at number four on the ARIA Hitseekers Albums chart in Australia and at number thirty-six in Japan.[60][61] In the United States, the album reached number seven on Billboard's Heatseekers Albums chart on 20 March 2013.[62] By March 2013, Hands had sold 17,000 copies in the US, according to Nielsen SoundScan.[63]

Track listing[edit]

No. Title Writer(s) Producer(s) Length
1. "New in Town"   Victoria Hesketh, Greg Kurstin Kurstin 3:19
2. "Earthquake"   Hesketh, Kurstin Kurstin 4:04
3. "Stuck on Repeat"   Hesketh, Kurstin, Joe Goddard Goddard 3:22
4. "Click"   Hesketh Jas Shaw, Fred Ball 3:16
5. "Remedy"   Hesketh, RedOne RedOne 3:19
6. "Meddle"   Hesketh, Kurstin, Goddard Goddard, Kurstin (add.) 3:16
7. "Ghost"   Hesketh Shaw, Ball (add.) 3:03
8. "Mathematics"   Hesketh, Kurstin, Goddard Kurstin, Goddard 3:26
9. "Symmetry" (with Philip Oakey) Hesketh, Roy Kerr, Anu Pillai Kid Gloves 4:30
10. "Tune Into My Heart"   Hesketh, Pascal Gabriel Semothy Jones 3:42
11. "Hearts Collide"   Hesketh, Richard "Biff" Stannard, Julian Peake Stannard, Peake 3:45
12. "No Brakes"
"Hands" (hidden track)
Hesketh, Stannard, Peake
Hesketh
Stannard, Peake
Shaw
9:57

Personnel[edit]

Credits for Hands adapted from liner notes.[67]

Charts[edit]

Chart (2009) Peak
position
Australian Hitseekers Albums Chart[60] 4
European Top 100 Albums[58] 19
Irish Albums Chart[56] 20
Japanese Albums Chart[61] 36
UK Albums Chart[68] 5
Chart (2010) Peak
position
US Heatseekers Albums[62] 7

Release history[edit]

Region Date Label Format(s)
Ireland[69] 5 June 2009 679 Recordings, Atlantic Records CD, digital download
United Kingdom[37][38][39] 8 June 2009
10 June 2009 LP
Australia[70] 12 June 2009 Warner Music CD, digital download
Germany[71] 26 June 2009
Japan[65] 8 July 2009
Canada[72] 2 March 2010
United States[73] Elektra Records CD, LP, digital download

References[edit]

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