Little Dragon’s Growth Over Eighteen Years

Courtesy of Little Dragon via Facebook
Courtesy of Little Dragon via Facebook

“Our sound is wide – it’s not just one particular style – so we dove into different worlds.” said Yukimi Nagano of the Swedish “dream pop” band, Little Dragon, during her interview with Rolling Stone earlier this year. She continued, “New worlds, new spaces we haven’t been to before…It feels like there are different moods and we’re exploring ourselves a bit.” And exploring themselves they most certainly are.

If there’s one word to describe Little Dragon’s musical career, it would have to be “growth.” Their discography unfolds almost too perfectly, with a formula – or lack thereof – for compelling incremental growth that somehow seems to work just right from track to track. Their sound is in fact “wide” in every sense of the word, as Nagano’s unique voice manages to masterfully weave neo-soul warmth into calculated synthpop beats. From the mellow overtones of their soulful, jazz-inspired debut album Little Dragon, to the celestial, uptempo vibes of their latest release, Nabuma Rubberband, they make sure to craft auditory experiences that are completely immersive.

Their sophomore album, Machine Dreams, finds an intriguing niche nestled somewhere between electro and Amazonian, which can be heard on tracks like “A New” and “Come Home.” From there, they manage to make the non-jarring transition toward what most would consider a more purely electronic sound on their third album, Ritual Union. Although far more pop-y, each track still manages to maintain a certain R ‘n’ B-like integrity.

On tracks such as “Constant Surprises” and “Little Man”, Nagano’s quirky personality shines through in lyrical narratives just vague enough to leave listeners paradoxically feeling as though they could have many meanings…while also considering it just as likely that they may have no meaning at all. Their sound is expansive in that the themes of their lyrics range greatly as well; from unconventional takes on the standard song of heartbreak, to topics of more philosophical nature. On more recent tracks off of their latest album, such as “Pretty Girls” and “Pink Cloud”, Nagano’s vocal growth over eighteen years is apparent, and is woven seamlessly into its resonant, floaty melodies.

Over the course of their career, the band has collaborated with artists ranging from the Gorillaz and SBTRKT, to De La Soul and Big Boi. But what remains so fascinating about the arc of Little Dragon’s musical progression is their uncanny ability to make ambiguity work really, really well. Musically, lyrically, and visually, they manage to jump between and/or fuse genres that seem completely polar to one another without ever losing their essence. I just hope that there’s more where it came from.