Tuesday, January 27
Swedish electronica/pop group Little Dragon has been a band for nearly 20 years, four friends forming through school connections. They’ve been releasing albums across the last decade, alternating between dark, stirring balladry and upbeat club-happy beat-driven dance-vehicles.
But around 2010 the band started to really make dents – working with Damon Albarn’s Gorillaz project, turning down big name producers, tracks appearing here and there, all of a sudden they had found their place – and overnight success was just a decade and a half in the making. They still haven’t – really – had a hit. Well, Ritual Union’s title track (from 2011) was part of the wave of success.
Here is a band that never overplays – every instrumentalist there to do a job, serve the tunes. Erik Bodin is a fantastic drummer, working at a hybrid acoustic/electric kit, creating disco-frenzy one minute with his 16th notes on the hi-hat, and tinkering away with percussive asides the next. Fredrik Kallgren Wallin (keyboards, bass) and Kahan Wirenstrand (keyboards) are more stoic, it’s their job to coax the weird and wonderful melodies, increasingly the Little Dragon sound teases aspects of Prince, Madonna and Cyndi Lauper’s early 1980s pop sound.
But the star of this band – without question – is vocalist Yukimi Nagano. Her voice is just right, never collapsing under the weight of vocal gymnastics, never going anywhere near that trap actually. But that’s just one aspect. As a frontperson she is magnetic, her dance moves help tell the story of each song, a conduit for the music, and she’s a dab-hand on the tambourines and wood-blocks, sneaking over to add her own keyboard line at one point, hyping the crowd, working hard. Her energy is phenomenal – it is what makes Little Dragon work live. She is the star. And yet not a hint of diva attitude.