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Little Boots, ‘Hands’
Good pop doesn’t work too hard. So luckily, few beads of sweat trickle from the electro shimmer of Victoria “Little Boots” Hesketh’s much-anticipated stateside landing. Odds are, however, that you already knew the darling musician, who dropped an EP last year, when she was still a self-made YouTube sensation performing covers in her pajamas. But on her full-length debut, featuring a plethora of producers, the British pixie’s stimulating a disco-ball glow, glittering the robotic lost-in-space sounds with a Kylie Minogue kinship that won’t go unnoticed by any gay boys. “New in Town” put her on the ‘mo map, using simple Spice Girls sing-along lyrics (“I’m gonna take you out tonight/I’m gonna make you feel alright”) over buzzing synths that makes for one bubbly little nugget of neon-strobed sweetness. By comparison, “Earthquake” sounds bigger (and, with that name, shouldn’t it?), ruminating on relationship woes – a running theme – in a dizzying display of laser sounds and drum machines. Not making much of a rumble, though, is the forgettable breeziness of the closing ballads: the throwaway “No Brakes” and “Hearts Collide,” a major Minogue mimic. The allure of Hesketh, though, is that she’s familiar enough to get us hooked – dressing her music in ’80s influences and doing disco-leaned danceables. Imagine how big Little Boots will be when she finds a sound that’s all her own.
k.d. lang, ‘Recollection’
Not even Evian water can rival the purity of k.d. lang’s voice. So drink up, because the 22 songs on this double-disc collection (also available in a deluxe version) – from the music legend’s multi-decade, cross-genre career – mark some major milestones. And not just with hits like “Constant Craving,” her defining moment that’s included early on here. The mellowness of her warm, supple voice sweeps through the breadth of songs – interpreting covers with immeasurable astuteness, like on the intensely moving Hollies’ tune “The Air that I Breathe” and the longing of Neil Young’s achy “Helpless.” Duets that were once only available via soundtracks appear on “Recollection”: “Crying” with Roy Orbison, which has the power to completely stop the world from moving, and “Calling All Angels,” a quiet plea, sung with Jane Siberry, that somehow became even more splendid after its “Six Feet Under” spot. If 2006’s “Reintarnation” chronicled her twangy genesis, this set encompasses the stylish elegance now oft-associated with her timeless tunes – whether she’s melting us with the Beatles “Golden Slumbers/The End” hybrid or moving us on two immaculate, understated versions of “Hallelujah.” When Tony Bennett gushes during an intro to his Grammy-winning duet with her on “Moonglow,” he says, “Every once in a while there are certain performers who come along – they’re just blessed with a destiny.” No kidding.
Patty Larkin, ’25’
How genius: The revered sorta-folkie re-records songs for each year of her 25-year career over two discs with some of her BFFs. All of it, like most of the New Englander’s material, is lo-fi and chill, turning some wicked guitar licks (no wonder she’s been compared to Bonnie Raitt) and impassioned testimonials, like “Cupid’s Knee,” one of her first recordings. Even lesbian icon Janis Ian pops in, harmonizing with Larkin on “Italian Shoes.” With a guest list this good, don’t forget to RSVP.
Brandi Carlile, ‘XOBC’
Her booming pipes usually threaten everything in their path, but the Seattle singer-songwriter goes for cute-and-cuddly over loud-and-lifting on this iTunes download. Three new cuts, the best being the piano-building conundrum “Love Songs,” are cornered between two remakes: the Beatles staple “All You Need Is Love” and Bryan Adams’ pop hit “Heaven.” Sounding blissful, restrained and tender on the latter, there’s no better way to describe it than by its own title.