The Hated Opinionated One

Little Dragon Releases Dazzling Flames

Posted by Scotio on June 4, 2008

I have a thing for foreign music. You can’t call me a traitor to the US scene. I love good music from everywhere, no matter the country of origin. Little Dragon is a band whose music I would declare to be good, in every sense, with their self-titled debut release. Yukimi Nagano is, for the most part, the leader of this four-piece outfit. Her voice is purely enchanting. That is the key tool to unlock and disarm any hesitant feelings that you might have for this gem from Sweden.

Their first single, “Twice”, is also the album opener. Featuring simple synth playing, a piano strumming emotionally repetitive, and Nagano’s voice breaking you down to your core. I was lucky enough to have seen their music video for this song, as my introduction to them. The video, itself, is as warmingly beautiful as the song is. Performed by a team of puppeteers, you’re treated to something so simplistic that it can do nothing but compliment the seductive sounds you’re hearing from this act.

To believe that their entire album sounds like that first song would leave you to be the fool, in the end. They are across the board. Not settling for one sound/style, but rather seeking different structures to demonstrate the jazzy skills that they possess. They never get too heavy, nor do they get boring, either. That’s worthy of praise all its own. A personal favorite of mine is the track “No Love”. The song embodies the finger-snappin’ head-noddin’ moments of the early to mid 90’s sound of R&B(think Mary J. Blige’s My Life album). Nagano has to be some type of medium who is able to reenact, with full precision, singers from a time when music was sung from the soul and not for the currency.

“Constant Surprises” is another one of those Lost Time moments. Having a bassline from Jazz somewhere in the 40’s, with the drumming and slight turntable rewind scratching from Hip-Hop in the early 90’s, and the synth grooviness of Soul from the 70’s, it’s a strange combination that becomes a perfect homogenous mixture. One that sounds like it was destined to be put together. One where you’re left wondering why no one else seems to be pushing this type of sound to the forefront.

“After The Rain” seems more like it would be better suited in a musical than it would on an album that you’ve recently gotten used to at this point. Not saying that the song is bad, just stating that the song would seem to find more love in a Broadway musical where the female lead was having a slight break of the fourth wall and letting it be known that whatever she went through hasn’t pulled her into the depths just yet. Well, maybe not a Broadways musical, but certainly a musical movie. Similar oddity falls on the track that succeeds it, “Place To Belong”. This one isn’t a musical, but it features a good deal of electronic sounds. The style and formula of these songs are, for the most part, a departure in the sound you’ve become somewhat accustomed to by the time you’ve reached these two songs. Again, you’d be a fool to look at these as bad tracks. Could be just bad album placement, if anything? Or maybe not.

You have to take into account the fact that, after those songs, the band seems to have shifted their direction(if that’s understandable for an unpredictable band such as this). The song “Wink”, which is my personal favorite of the bunch, kicks in like a missing Erykah Badu song. The instrumental portion of Little Dragon pushes out a sound that you would have to believe Ms. Badu was aiming for with very limited success of current days. Ms. Nagano does her best interpretation of Badu’s tone and sass. The seductiveness of this track, along with the clapping sound, makes your neck sway and your feet pissed at you if you don’t have them in motion while the song is playing.

This little known band(and I’m only speaking for the American fanbase of them) from Sweden as such a loud and bold sound. They aren’t believers of pigeonholing themselves into just one placement. They are all over the place, but not in any location where they shouldn’t be in. They know their limitations, and they work around them. Little Dragon isn’t just a band, they are an addition in the movement towards more Soulful music. I’m not talking about Soul/R&B music. I’m talking about music from the soul and for the soul. Check them out if you ever get the chance. I know that I’m incredibly grateful that I did.




2 Responses to “Little Dragon Releases Dazzling Flames”

  1. leila said

    I don’t in any way think yukimi nagano is trying to do an interpretation of Erykah Badu as you’ve stated. they’ve obviously both been inspired by former jazz singers. And I know you know yukimi started off singing jazz.Just because Erykah was first to commercialize the sound in this era does not mean others weren’t inspired.

  2. Scotio said

    You make it seem like I went on and on about how she was a direct duplicate of her. I stated of their similarities for one song. Just one. Not the entire record. And, even in the comparison, I remarked how Little Dragon nudged over Badu.

    I also stated of the similarities between one song and Mary J. Blige. Do you feel that they were trying to interpret Mary? Or did you understand what I meant by that remark, also?

    I’m all for you standing up for the artists you love, but make sure you understand the content of the material you read and not jump in as if I’m putting it down or remarking how it’s some carbon copy knock-off. I said no such thing, and, in fact, praised the album throughout the review(even down to the part where I stated that they’re successful where she isn’t). I’m well aware of old Jazz Singers like Etta James, Nina Simone, Billie Holiday, etc. So, don’t believe that I’m some youngster who doesn’t know his musical history.

    Thanks, though, for at least reading the article.

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