11 Songs, 43 Minutes

EDITORS’ NOTES

Sweden’s Little Dragon possess such a plethora of ideas and talent, it feels like they molt a layer with each release. Their 2007 debut was soulful, jazzy and offbeat, and 2009’s Machine Dreams moved into electro/trip-hop territory, with Yukimi Nagano’s vocals a shade more sinuous and supple. Ritual Union takes a harder turn into electro-pop, with beds of crackling, pulsing synthesizers and crispy percussion underlying Nagano’s mostly plangent vocals. The title track has a cool urgency, with a finger-snapping snare beat and a faint, throbbing keyboard laying the perfect rhythm for a smooth shimmy. The tune segues into the brilliantly understated “Little Man,” a song rich with a silky, neo-soul liquidity. Tunes like those are the real stars: propulsive, sensuous rhythms are understated, stealthily embedding themselves in place of bold hooks digging in. The blinking, clattering “Nightflight” (which vaguely recalls the great ESG), the swinging, jazz-inflected “Shuffle a Dream,” and the slithery “Summertearz” possess a kind of narcotic appeal, demanding repeated listens that reveal more delights each time.

EDITORS’ NOTES

Sweden’s Little Dragon possess such a plethora of ideas and talent, it feels like they molt a layer with each release. Their 2007 debut was soulful, jazzy and offbeat, and 2009’s Machine Dreams moved into electro/trip-hop territory, with Yukimi Nagano’s vocals a shade more sinuous and supple. Ritual Union takes a harder turn into electro-pop, with beds of crackling, pulsing synthesizers and crispy percussion underlying Nagano’s mostly plangent vocals. The title track has a cool urgency, with a finger-snapping snare beat and a faint, throbbing keyboard laying the perfect rhythm for a smooth shimmy. The tune segues into the brilliantly understated “Little Man,” a song rich with a silky, neo-soul liquidity. Tunes like those are the real stars: propulsive, sensuous rhythms are understated, stealthily embedding themselves in place of bold hooks digging in. The blinking, clattering “Nightflight” (which vaguely recalls the great ESG), the swinging, jazz-inflected “Shuffle a Dream,” and the slithery “Summertearz” possess a kind of narcotic appeal, demanding repeated listens that reveal more delights each time.

TITLE TIME
3:30
2:41
4:10
2:58
3:34
4:49
3:50
3:25
3:50
5:59
4:45

About Little Dragon

Formed in Gothenberg, Sweden in 1996, this electronic quartet comprises lead vocalist Yukimi Nagano (vocals, percussion), Håkan Wirenstrand (keyboards), Erik Bodin (drums), and Fredrik Källgren Wallin (bass). Naming themselves after Nagano's nickname that she received for throwing tantrums while recording, Little Dragon debuted in 2006 with the "Test" single on the Scandinavian Off the Wall label. The following year, Little Dragon signed with the larger British indie Peacefrog for their self-titled debut album released in 2007. Its opening song, the hushed ballad "Twice," was featured during the 2008-2009 season of Grey's Anatomy. Later in 2009, the group released Machine Dreams, which showed new wave inspiration through bigger hooks. From there, they collaborated on recordings by Gorillaz (Plastic Beach), TV on the Radio's Dave Sitek (Maximum Balloon), SBTRKT (SBTRKT), and Big Boi (Vicious Lies & Dangerous Rumours), among others.

In 2011, they released a third album, Ritual Union, written and recorded during gaps in their schedule as worldwide support for Gorillaz. The record exposed them to a wider audience, charting in both the U.S. and the U.K. Exhausted from touring, Little Dragon took some time out to record their next album at their own studio space in Gothenburg during 2012. For the recording, they drew musical influences from Prince to Janet Jackson and claimed that the dark and cold Swedish winter played a part in shaping their sound. Preceded by the singles "Klapp Klapp," "Paris," and "Let Go," Nabuma Rubberband was released in 2014 and subsequently nominated for a Grammy in the category of Best Dance/Electronic Album.

Featured appearances on tracks by the likes of ODESZA, Mac Miller, Kaytranada, De La Soul, and Flume followed shortly thereafter. Little Dragon's fifth set, Season High, arrived in 2017, and included the singles "High" and "Sweet." It peaked at number five on the Billboard's U.S. Top Dance/Electronic Albums chart. A non-album single, "Best Friends," followed in 2018. ~ Stewart Mason & James Pearce

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