Ten years in the business only seems to have ignited Hesketh’s curiosity.
On the last day of July, a new moon rose, ushering in a time of rebirth, new connections and the end of Mercury’s retrograde. Such a phenomenon comes and goes without many ever realizing it, but many others claim it affects us much more than most understand. Two days later, Little Boots dropped the brand new EP Jump, opening with the line “Remember/ A new moon was rising.” Like Earth’s satellite at the start of its cycle, Little Boots took to the shadows for her own rejuvenation: she left Atlantic Records to start her own label, On Repeat Records, releasing one full-length LP and a stream of EPs since then. None quite elicited the popularity of her 2009 material, which made her the Sound of BBC and beat out Florence and the Machine, Mumford & Sons and even that year’s biggest star, Lady Gaga. As Spin noted, her brand of big, bold electropop on cuts like “Remedy” and “New in Town” presaged the onslaught of EDM which would engulf the 2010s.
Instead of falling into that sphere, Victoria Hesketh took herself deeper into the club and her own psyche. Nocturnes marked the start of her turn towards dance music, illuminating a pathway through disco, techno and electro which has now led to Jump. Murky and melodic, the EP carries on Little Boots’ rebirth from the major label darling of a decade ago. Much of the project’s fogginess speaks to Hesketh’s move from England to Los Angeles, a place she says makes her feel both “invincible… and delusional.”
Here, Hesketh intertwines her light, understated vocals with equally modest productions to craft a smooth union of voice and instrumentation. Everything from the tight, four-song track list to the viral inspiration behind the album artwork speaks to Hesketh’s attention to detail, one developed with Working Girl and that only continues to sharpen.
From the get go, Jump comes out blazing on the title track, a collaboration with Cyril Hahn and highlight of the project overall. Easily the loudest of the bunch, “Jump” presents Hesketh with a risk that puts her at odds with her emotions: “I can’t trust my feelings/ They don’t understand” implies that the one pushing her to take the plunge may not be another person, but herself. Meanwhile, Hahn’s beat gallops forward using bongo drums, muffled whip cracks and pan flutes, the latter of which elevate the track just as it closes. It’s a shame the duo’s other underappreciated single “Infrared” failed to make the cut.
They may not reach the same heights as the title track, but the rest of the EP’s songs offer plenty of stellar moments. When it comes to Hesketh, the low-key often arises as the most interesting aspect. “Gotta show enough/ But not too much” she advises on “Secret.” Much like “Shadows” off of Burn, the track requires a good sound system and a bit of your attention to land with full impact. Again, this is a testament to Hesketh’s meticulous craftsmanship, which restrains the bombast in favor of discreetness.
Her partners in the project also adhere to Hesketh’s inconspicuous manner. Jordan Reyes, the producer behind “Secret” and “Mistakes,” lets the beat fall out from underneath to give the listener pause and Little Boots a little extra gravitas. “Don’t tell me I never deserved your love” arrives as the percussion recedes, demonstrating Hesketh’s understanding of the balance between vocalist and production. The one featured vocalist, Kiddy Smile, also keeps it minimal, merely whispering their lines on “Lesson.”
Ten years in the business only seems to have ignited Hesketh’s curiosity rather than set her into an assigned role or formula, and Jump stands as a testament to that inquisitiveness. Though it falls into clichés and stumbles at times, it never pretends to have anything figured out. As with any rebirth, the outcome is never really clear until the process ends. Little Boots appears happy to embrace the uncertainty of it all: “Let me be the question” sounds as affirming as any answer she could give.