Album opener “Motorway” sets an elegiac tone with a beautiful 40-second intro before evolving into a narrative of two lovers — or friends? — escaping their small town “for the unknown.” With percolating synths and angelic harmonies, the mood Hesketh creates is reminiscent of Tangerine Dream‘s “Love On A Train” (see the movie Risky Business); both tracks are like smooth, slow motion bullets.
The predominant mood on Nocturnes is, aptly, introspection…teardrops at midnight. Most tracks stretch out with instrumental passages that allow Hesketh to create a proper emotional arc. The seven-minute “Strangers” harkens back to the Moroder-esque synths of the first Little Boots single, “Stuck On Repeat.” This one, a monolith of sad disco, matches beautiful electronics with a dysfunctional affair:
You go out drinking to forget
And when we meet by accident
Or self-conscious coincidence
There’s an uncomfortable suspense
A thousand words hanging unsaid.
The album isn’t all dark dancefloors and glowing dashboards. The up-tempo “Beat Beat” is the blond sister to Daft Punk‘s current, bass-heavy “Get Lucky.” If tunes were outfits, “Beat Beat” is a zippered jumpsuit: it slinks along to a wicked groove-driven instrumental bridge. The anthmic pop of “Crescendo” boasts a spine tingler moment at 2:49 when the music drops and a multi-tracked Hesketh chants, “We keep getting louder, and I can’t stand the noise.”
For “Every Night I Say A Prayer,” Hesketh collaborated with Andy Butler of Hercules And Love Affair on a shape-throwing piece of house music. The legendary children of New York’s voguing houses will find she’s supplied them with a new soundtrack. “Shake” has a similar indie disco vibe. The album’s centerpiece, it culminates in a glistening breakdown at the 3:40 mark: “There’s only one thing you should really know / I tell you this place is about to blow,” she cooly sings before the arrangement explodes into a dancefloor Moment.
It all winds up with album closer “Satellite,” which mainlines the same euphoria Kylie Minogue captured so well on her 2010 LP, Aphrodite. Like a party ending with 4 a.m. fireworks, it pings and pops and explodes into spiraling synths, beats and rat-a-tat tat percussion.
Hesketh seems warmer and more assured than ever in the environment she’s created on Nocturnes. With a production assist from New York dance producer Tim Goldsworthy, she’s gotten so comfortable in her musical skin that she makes it sound effortless. The result is a rare bird: a second album that far exceeds the debut.
Idolator Rating: 4.5/5
— Stephen Sears