Maintaining a four-way friendship for 20 years personally and musically is an applause-worthy achievement. Especially when the friends have a sacred telepathy shown consistently in their musical chemistry. However, what happens when for the first time (at album number five) the close-knit group allow outsider production hands into their project?
Although ambitious electronic-soul quartet Little Dragon have featured on albums belonging to other artists from Gorillaz to SBTRKT to Koop, its unusual for the Swedes to gain producers access to the creativity on their own records.
Knowing that Simian Mobile Disco‘s James Ford and Patrik Berger (who’s worked some of the poppiest of pop hits from Charlie XCX to Robyn to Icona Pop) have come on board could be a scary thought for fans when Little Dragon have earned a reputation for being innovative and self-stylized but thankfully their influence isn’t that intrusive. New album Season High follows enough of the Gothenburg act’s own rules to resemble a Little Dragon piece of art.
Ford and Berger just add a little a danceability to proceedings and their influence is most noticeable in the house bass oomph, sticky high-hats, bubbly hooks and predictable treble-dropping in ‘The Pop Life‘ and ‘Push’.
Although both songs read lyrically as parodies on fame and money, so feel somewhat appropriately dressed-up. “Let’s stack up the cash/sipping on the good life”. These songs presumably a reaction to Little Dragon’s recent exposure to fame following the Grammy win for previous release Nabuma Rubberband. Yet ‘Push’ has its inventive moments and contains a flirtatious edginess and sexual dialogue that makes it memorable and reminscent of George Michael‘s ‘Too Funky‘.
The rest of Season High meets expected Little Dragon credentials: simulteanously idiosyncratic, intruging and fascinating. Based around the theme of escaping the boredom of a mundane city, Yukimi Nagano and her buddies propose escapist methods. They invite us to get spiritually lost and fly above rooftops on hallucinogenic and woozy ‘High‘. They encourage us to indulge in our sugary addictions in ‘Sweet‘, a song that’s Nintendo-playfullness sounds like Sylvan Esso’s ‘Kick Jump Twist‘ and its lyrics are timely for Easter release: “I can’t resist this high taste / wrapped up in a sugar rush”.
Furthermore Yukimi suggests transforming into another species on the twinkly synth storybook “Butterflies” before finally booking us a flight to space to “visit the planets in the middle of the night” on the 7 and a half minutes-long journey ‘Gravity‘. An epic experiment into sound and stereophonics. Best heard in the confinement of headphones and is one of Little Dragon’s career highlights. Starting with digital ignition, listeners travel past comets and experience the nature of space – an echoey, unpredictable, spacious and limitless atmosphere – until at the end a propeller indicates that we will be taken back to the formalities of Earth.
Overall, the assistance of James Ford and Patrik Berger dosen’t have any long damaging effect and with Season High beginning with the New Order-meets-Prince ‘Celebrate‘ – a track where Little Dragon seemingly congratulate themselves on their 20th birthday together with “hundred red balloons” and their electric guitarist friend Agge – proves that their unbreakable connection will continue to be as strong as ever.