Has the world has caught up to Little Dragon? Not this time. Combining the electro-pop-whatever Little Dragon has going on and marrying a little R&B in “Season High” makes for a weird, inviting adventure. Like being piqued with arousal with a lover, you’re not sure what comes next, but you know you’re on the cusp of something momentous.
The whole of “Season High” came off both abrasively fragile and dancey. Starting with “Celebrate,” it reminds us of 2010’s Foster the People in the very first seconds of the song. Eventually, the song unfolds into a reminiscent complement to Prince or Michael Jackson. It’s got pops and head nods galore–whispering while the beat drops, Little Dragon keeps the disco alive.
“High” softens the mood, sounding like a fusion between Rhye and Aaliyah. It could be tacky, but becomes sexually alluding. The next two songs, “The Pop Life” and “Sweet,” flip the vibe around. They send a LOL and JK to the listener, screaming “WE AREN’T A SOFT FLIRT BAND!” and oozing with ideas from SBTRKT with whom Little Dragon has collaborated in the past. Maybe it is a little bit of a joke, since their 2014 Grammy nomination made it seem like they had become more mainstream. “Season High” shows us Little Dragon isn’t going to wallow in the top 100 charts for too long.
The sound dials back again with “Butterflies,” bringing in something reminiscent of Bjork. Ethereal and eternal. The lyrics read like a subtle eulogy to all the performers who have died, imagining them morphing into butterflies.
In their old house, from a lover’s mouth
He kept feathered in behind the bamboo screen
She said, “When he died, became a butterfly
He was fluttering, coloring meadows and hills
Beauty gave us the chills
Flying on your own, then a thousand mourn
Thousand souls swarming, thousands were performing
Thousand souls swarming, thousands were performing.”
“Fluttering, coloring meadows and hills/Beauty gave us chills […] Thousand souls swarming, thousands were performing.” There are so many tributes that have been done, so why not flatter the artist with your own album of inspiration? Which is what Yukimi Nagano, the lead singer-songwriter of Little Dragon, might have been set out to do. And it’s a treat. The six-minute song fades out, which feels appropriate. It’s as though it’s a slow bow to show respect to the artists who’ve passed and can’t be competed with.
The rest of the album plays out with mash ups of disco and voguing, but all treated with Nagano’s unique softness. You never feel throttled by the blend of sounds. You’re intrigued by how they all play together, and by the end of it all, she blasts you into an almost unresolved album. She leaves you with a cliffhanger and you want to know what more will come of Little Dragon. “Season High” is a delicately complex album. Listening to it once would be an injustice. It will probably play in your local coffee shop over and over again until you get up and ask the barista what they are playing.
What was surprising about the whole album was that there were no collaborations with any other artists. Little Dragon has collaborated in the past with SBTRKT, ODESZA, Big Boi, Gorillaz, and DJ Shadow. There was so much room to bring them all in. Little Dragon dropped a remix of “High” before the album even released, featuring Denzel Curry and Twelve’len. Maybe, Nagano has bigger plans. Maybe, this whole album is just a base layer of sounds. Maybe, Little Dragon will become the remix idol of the century. Maybe, Little Dragon is making us think too hard. We’re going down a rabbit hole with Little Dragon and into their world of remembrance, sensuality, and aggressive pop. We don’t mind.
AlunaGeorge, FKA twigs, Flying Lotus, Santigold, SBTRKT
Reviewed and written by guest writer Casey Holmstrom.