A twenty one year run is more than impressive for this Swedish electronic quartet. Forming in 1996, Little Dragon are now stalwarts of the scene and five albums deep, so there’s really no excuse if you haven’t heard of them by now. They take their name from the nickname given to lead singer Yukimi Nagano for her tantrums whilst recording, which sets the tone for the ferocious individuality and declamatory nature of their music. So buckle up and ready your headphones, cos here’s our top five picks of Little Dragon’s discography so far.
What do you get when you pair the stellar production of SBTRKT with the eerie, haunting and impossibly funky vocals of Little Dragon’s Yukimi Nagano? Near perfection, that’s what. Nagano’s voice blends in seamlessly with the sirens and wah-wah synths of SBTRKT’s stripped-back and well-balanced track. Right from the off, Nagano teases her listeners with her cascading soprano, setting the bar high for the rest of “Wildfire”. With over 48 million plays on Spotify, the people can’t be wrong.
“Nabuma Rubberband” is a beautiful neo-soul classic from Little Dragon’s 2014 offering of the same name. The title track sits back on its beat, allowing Nagano’s voice to take centre stage in the wonderfully chilled atmosphere that it weaves for itself. The lead-in from preceding song “Lurad” would have you believe you’re in for an all-guns-blazing hard electro track, but the genius of Little Dragon lets them subvert your expectations whilst never disappointing you. What they offer is always far better than what you had imagined for them.
“Twice” comes from Little Dragon’s self-titled first album from 2007, but it was in fact featured on Gilles Peterson’s 1999 compilation “Worldwide – A Celebration of his Syndicated Radio Show”. The calm, measured pace of this track is kept steady by the sparse instrumental backing. Everything is kept simple: strings drop in and out, drums are left to one side, and the double-tracked vocals allow the listener to switch focus and find their own meaning to it. This is certainly a good introduction to the rest of their discography if you’re looking for a place to start.
Not to be confused with Sia’s smash hit, Little Dragon’s very own “Little Man” deserves recognition in its own right. Jungle drum fills spin in and out of the echoing vocals, daring you to keep pace. Brash synth sounds push their way to the front, vying for attention as they demand to be heard. Using the synth as an extra voice during the chorus not only adds texture and layers, but gave a dominance back to the synth that it had lost in the indie music scene.
“High” comes from Little Dragon’s most recent album Season High, which surprisingly few people are talking about. It perfectly displays Nagano’s trademark inventive vocal lines that can now be heard in the neo-soul divas of today’s scene, like NAO, Jorja Smith and Kelela. It’s certainly a skill to be able to use a plethora of digital effects, instruments and filters, and yet make it seem so superbly stripped-back and sparse. “High” achieves this in full effect, and must certainly form a part of any beginner’s Little Dragon education.
Little Dragon play at Manchester Academy on Thursday 26th October, as well as Canal Mills on Friday 3rd November as guests of Beacons Metro with Com Truise, Pixx and Makeness in support.
Photo courtesy of Little Dragon