Having been through the major label pop mill and taken the jelly fillets out of her stage gear, the classically-trained 30-year-old now runs her own label and knows whereof she sings. There are motivational numbers such as Get Things Done, with its great elastic-bass hook. But more often Hesketh is in the trenches. Against the Nineties club whumps of No Pressure, she notes: “The city treats you like a stranger/ Though you’ve been here a hundred times before/ Playing the game, you need a changer.”
There’s pouty fun (though little innovation) on Better in the Morning. Hesketh should take more risks. The most experimental track, Taste It, is the high point of an album that makes great commuting company.
The album keeps its BPM up and its personal stakes high, as Hesketh articulates the ennui of a high-powered life. “I don’t like where I am and my friends don’t understand,” she sings on “No Pressure”. On “Business Pleasure”, she asserts, “I’m not your girl in the machine.” And on “Better in the Morning”, she bounces through a sing-song melody to talk herself out of feeling defeated at the end of the day. The production is lively and fun throughout, but ringed with after-hours melancholy. Hesketh sings as if she’s trying to claw her way out of isolation, hoping for someone, anyone, to hear her.
Little Boots packs her share of sarcasm into Working Girl, but above all she insists fiercely on her own humanity. She arranges her insecurities on a familiar pop framework, her struggles and doubts laid bare. The chirping “Help Too” carries some of the heaviest lyrics Hesketh has written — it might be her most tender song yet. Boots has refined her technical skills and curation choices over the past two albums, but her biggest breakthrough on Working Girl is just how much she’s now willing to let us in.
From the title track to the deep-house "Heroine" and "Business Pleasure," the theme of feminine empowerment is threaded loosely throughout, though "Get Things Done," with its kitschy disco affectations and girl-power hook ("We know how to get things done!"), sounds less like a modern feminist anthem and more like the theme song to Amy Schumer's recent "80's Ladies" sketch.
And while the reggae-influenced keyboards and bouncy, early-'90s house bass of "The Game" provide some nifty nostalgia-triggering tricks that are ultimately in service of rather pedestrian melodies and lyrics ("Play that game, break that chain"), tracks like the standout "Help Too," a bittersweet electro ballad worthy of Robyn, display an understated sophistication and vulnerability: "Baby, let me know if you're cold, you can have my sweater/Call me up in pieces, I'll put you back together." It's in moments like these that Little Boots seems to have found the perfect fit.