Victoria Hesketh’s latest collection sees her take on production as well as writing and performance, banking a fair few undeniable earworms with which she doubles down
Victoria Hesketh first arrived on the scene, ‘New In Town’ as it were, in 2009 – a transitory period where synth-pop had just regained traction internationally and hadn’t yet been swallowed up by EDM. Jumping on the RedOne bandwagon along with Enrique Iglesias and Sean Kingston, as Little Boots she stuck out due to her prim, polite delivery, perhaps setting herself up as the Sarah Cracknell of a new generation. Following her debut album Hands she left her major label and spent time featuring on house records and honing her sound on subsequent albums released on her own label, a do-it-all-yourself process which has led to her writing and producing this record entirely independently. But does this decision pay dividends?
As the title might indicate, Tomorrow’s Yesterdays isn’t particularly groundbreaking, but there are a fair few occasions amongst these sad bangers when Hesketh finds an undeniable earworm and doubles down. Crying On The Inside’s topline is magical, especially when it swoops down to the lower ranges and duets with the sparkling synths. There’s an irresistible ’80s melodrama to the whole affair. Elsewhere on the record, Want You Back? is a sweet and intriguingly constructed tale of moving on from a relationship (from “as the time goes by / and I realise / that I want you back / yes, I need you back” to “I don’t want you back / I don’t need you back”).
Several other songs, however, feel listless and aimless. Back To Mine trudges through a perfunctory verse-chorus structure before the uptempo second half transports us to a world of actual hedonism and fun. The title track aims for a more emotional core, contemplating a lifelong partnership that could have been, but winds up sounding like a karaoke version of Oasis’ Don’t Look Back In Anger, and the disco-by-numbers sound of Out (Out) brings to mind the harsh but timeless aphorism “only boring people are bored”.
The production, for an artist who has previously worked with DFA’s Tim Goldsworthy, Greg Kurstin and Richard X, is decidedly mixed. Opening track Love The Beginning is really quite limp, centred around mid-tempo drums and a piano part that doesn’t feel tethered to the rest of the arrangement, and what could be a nifty final minute of Deborah is weakened by similar timing issues. Making sure the parts gel as much as possible usually comes under the label of ‘post-production’, and while the ideas could be all there, mis-steps in this field indicate a lack of professionalism. Nothing Ever Changes is a lot more effective in its Andrew Weatherall-esque breakbeats and wistful chords, a sweet bass guitar part providing the groove.
Landline is another good example of a song that, while treading a well-worn path in a very familiar way, still gives off a pleasantly laid back house vibe. It’s about the sentimental aspects of young love that will most likely ring true to those born in the ’70s or ’80s: talking to each other on the family phone, pressing play simultaneously on a CD (or even a cassette!), and pining for a time when things all felt so simple. At points like this the album moves effortlessly out of check, as it feels deeply unreasonable to criticise a song about nostalgia for not being novel enough.
As Hesketh is clearly in a new, more creatively free stage of her career, getting funding from Patreon, working on ABBA‘s much anticipated new show and releasing music on her own label on her own terms, it is worth mentioning that the more unorthodox parts of the album – Back To Mine’s extended coda, Nothing Ever Changes’ crunchy instrumentation – are some of the best. There is a whole cottage industry of pop artists catering to an older market with disco revivalism. But while it can without doubt produce great music, Tomorrow’s Yesterdays would indicate that Little Boots’ talents are not yet being best served by this niche.