Little Dragon - Nabuma Rubberband

A much more sombre, sinister mood drifts throughout this record.

To cut to the chase, Little Dragon, who transformed from underground hype-band to crossover contenders back in 2011, are primed to hit the big time in 2014. On this record, their drum-and-synths minimalism is more refined, the bass-lines more prominent, the hooks almost embarrassingly memorable. Ringleader Yukimi Nagano’s effortless vocal is staggering. You can understand why she’s become the voice of choice for so many massive collaborators (Gorillaz, SBTRKT, Big Boi). Even happiest man on earth Pharrell is a fan of her debonair brooding style, inspired during recording by ‘Janet Jackson slow jams Yukimi used to listen to wandering around Gothenburg during the unrelenting winter’, Prince (you can definitely hear that one) and club culture in general.

The band have never been ones to sing about birthday cakes and ecstasy, but a much more sombre, sinister mood drifts throughout this record. Boisterous lead single ‘Klapp Klapp’ and its accompanying Zombie-themed video set the appropriate macabre tone. Its frantic beat, gargantuan bass riff and suitably vague, loopy lyrics (‘I know you want it / don’t you?’) were tantalising, and the song constantly teetered on the edge of explosion. It’s this sound which is echoed in ‘Underbart’ (lit. ‘wonderfully’ in Swedish), perhaps the best Little Dragon song yet. Also their most accessible, there’s a sense of tension in the minor chord-dominated framework. Nagano’s voice riffs all around, reverberates in the chorus, and a rumbling bass riff proceeds at roughly 180 plucks per minute. She sings in English, but it’s hard to make out what she’s saying. The song is remarkably affective, considering.

While their brash, ‘attitudinal’ pop continues on ‘Paris’, which concerns a particular rendezvous in the City of Love, the band also bring the slow jams. Allowing a spot of respite, ‘Pretty Girls’ slows the pace and offers the best hook on the album. Nagano’s brief utterance of ‘a California dream’ 17 seconds in is so, so perfect you’re tempted to record the second-long moment of genius, put it on loop and set it as your ringtone. While that one sounds like a doleful Sade lost in Berlin’s techno undergrowth, with string sections contributing the odd pleasing flourish, ‘Cat Rider’ is the slow jam perfected. Concentrated in the higher octaves, the incredibly delicate arrangement begs for Drake to steal the backdrop and spit a couple of verses over the top: a true marker of brilliance.

Tags: Little Dragon, Reviews, Album Reviews

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