Published Apr 17, 2017Little Dragon — the Swedish electro-synth dance-pop experimentalists that have garnered comparisons to Radiohead and Prince, and have collaborated with Big Boi, SBTRKT and Kaytranada — are back with their fifth album since their self-titled debut in 2007.
On Season High, Yukimi Nagano's vocals are definitely a focal point, though her virtuosity also allows her to blend in with the various styles here — many of which flirt with pop but never fully embrace it. The warm, bubbly synths of beautiful mid-album chiller "Butterflies" is beat-less, left-field electronica, but Nagano's melody is pure pop music trickery, singing about lovey-dovey butterflies over a track of fluttery synths that evoke exactly that.
Lead single "High," is a sultry, dreamy tease, but remove Nagano's lush vocal layers, and there would be little structure to grab onto. The tastefully designed drum and synth sounds, hypnotic grooves and funky synth lines are great, but the compositional development is minimalistic, closer to dance floor-oriented music than earworm pop.
"Sweet" similarly dances around the same bass line for the whole song, eschewing pop song structure for rhythms you can't stand still to, while Nagano's voice once more tricks you into thinking this is pop music. In terms of composition, these songs might be better understood as long lost descendants of James Brown: staying on one chord is fine if the rhythm is funky enough, and a vocal with enough charisma can carry almost anything.
"Should I" juxtaposes ice cream truck bell sounds with a mind-buzzing bass like that of Radiohead's "Myxomatosis," which provides a good summary for Little Dragons' sound overall: sugary pop meets hypnotic experimental electronics. The band will probably never make a singularly categorizable record, but their unique balance of accessibility and creativity is a definite strength — and it shines here. (Loma Vista)