With social, occupational and travel restrictions in motion, this is a time when we’ll likely reflect on our lives. Gothenburg quartet Little Dragon have entered a new chapter in their career after leaving previous record label Because Music and signing for London-based Ninja Tune and this is an emotional and engaging record that contemplates the notion of farewells, change and new beginnings. Although lead vocalist Yukimi Nagano and her long-term friends have evolved their sound and friendship, they remain distinctive and loyal to their principles. Perhaps this is why the new record is called New Me Same Us.
Their sixth album begins with the chunky energy of ‘Hold On’, a track about attempting to say goodbye to a part of your life but a force keeps holding you back. It could be fear, hesitation or empathetic guilt. “Let’s say farewell another million times”, sings Yukimi. The title ‘Hold On’ could cleverly have a double meaning of impulsively holding on to something to avoid change and an admirer could also be calling the phrase to stop you from moving.
If the devotee on ‘Hold On’ was slightly refusing to let their cherished leave, they are in emotional turmoil on ‘Rush’: “Where will I be going when your door is closed? I be lying on the porch like a dying rose. Take me when I’m withered when I’m bent and broke when I’m spent and low.” The production on the ‘Rush’ is fascinating introduction to the changes in Little Dragon’s new sounds. Aside from Yukimi’s digitally altered vocal effects, Erik Godin’s drums take on interesting forms. A rattling soca and dancehall rhythm gives it a festival environment as well as the inclusion of what sounds like the reverbed Roland drum machine from Phil Collins’ ‘In The Air Tonight’.
The silky smooth ‘Another Lover’ continues the emotional outpouring lyrics. The track showcases Yukimi Nagano’s soulful voice well but is also one of many tracks that appears to introduce a notable marxophone/zither sound along with other tracks, including ’Sadness’ which pairs it with traditional disco (the song is about seeing someone’s personality turn sour over time) and ‘Where You Belong’ which joins it with funky neo soul (the song about the paranoia of losing a companion).
Just from the title alone, the 6+ minute track ‘Stay Right Here’ seems to fit into the same category of heartfelt fear of loneliness and change. “Bind me and promise to always keep me high”, Yukimi sings in desperation. There are always moments on a Little Dragon album in which we are fully absorbed by their inventive instrumental soundscapes (‘Gravity’ on Season High, ‘When I Go Out’ on Ritual Union, ‘Pink Cloud’ on Nabuma Rubberband, ‘Fortune’ on Machine Dreams) and this album has plenty of engrossing experiences in the way the songs conclude. The last two minutes on the aforementioned ‘Stay Right Here’ imagine a dreamy forest, ‘Every Rain’ is minimalist art and the zither electronica ‘Kids’ – which is an interesting observation on cultural change from the point of view of a youth-envious aging person – ends in a slightly unsettling quasi-oriental psychedelia.
The chillout finale ‘Water’ – which wouldn’t sound out of place alongside Morcheeba’s ‘The Sea’ or Zero 7’s ‘Destiny’ on a Café Del Mar collection – is equally captivating. “Imagine us thirty years from now, in the same chair. Staring out, dusty songs, I remember most.” Yukimi evocatively pictures a long term couple having nostalgic moments – once again hanging on to relationship longevity – before an airy echoey atmosphere is introduced consisting of spinning sounds and vibrating water-resembling droplets of electronic effects.
“The stars are not aligned” is sung on ‘Hold On’ and “when the stars are aligned” is sung on the chime jazz-soul ‘New Fiction’. Little Dragon admitted on twitter that the record, among with other concepts, studies the cosmic – unsurprising if hearing the many space electronica moments throughout their discography – and perhaps this suggests that our fate is not always in our control. The cosmic universe is perhaps in charge of some of our decisions and paths, farewells and new beginnings.