Little Dragon Put Themselves First on 'Slugs of Love'

BY Emilie Richardson-DupuisPublished Jul 6, 2023

In a statement released along with the album announcement back in May, Little Dragon called Slugs of Love their "masterpiece." While masterpiece is a strong word, Slugs of Love certainly proves that Little Dragon have a lot left to give. Since forming in 1996, Little Dragon have earned their stripes as a band with a truly unique sound thanks to Yukimi Nagano's raspy vocals and their prominent funk influence combined with a propensity for electropop. However, with the exception of 2009's Machine Dreams, they haven't truly tapped into their full potential as a band. Slugs of Love seemingly marks a turning of the tides. 

As the droll title suggests, Slugs of Love finds Little Dragon allowing themselves to be playful — a welcome place for this group. The band cryptically said about the title: "Did you know that leopard slugs perform a very sensual and acrobatic dance, an exchange between two individuals carrying the same set of reproduction systems? Maybe we are all yearning for love and ecstasy, as we turn more sluggish and slimy trying to convey this urge." The title track being about just that is delightfully off-the-wall, and the most pop-friendly moment on the album.

Although still genre-bending, Slugs of Love is more R&B-focused than their previous works. The quartet seem to have finally realized their magic: Nagano's husky vocals paired with Fredrik Wallin's bass. The perfect pairing is perhaps most apparent on the song "Stay," featuring the rapper J.I.D. The track's minimalism allows for the funky bassline and Nagano's vocals to take centre stage. The powerfully earnest lyrics plead to a partner not to give up even though times have been tough: "I'll be your medicine if you'll be mine." Little Dragon have previously been guilty of doing their best work on other people's albums, like Gorillaz and Kaytranada, while their own albums fall short. On Slugs of Love, the favour is returned. J.I.D.'s verse in "Stay" hoists the song to a new level, and Damon Albarn's gentle vocals on "Glow" round out Nagano's soulful rasp, a magical combination previously explored on Gorillaz' 2010 album Plastic Beach

Many tracks on the album, including "Gold," are about life's riches that money can't buy, while the '90s hip-hop strut of "Tumbling Dice" carries a positive message: "Cheers for this moment, for this life." They're sure to become mainstays on many a summer playlist. Although it feels like the group still have more to explore, this album is a remarkable effort by Little Dragon as they begin to finally reach toward their full potential.
(Ninja Tune)

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