Following in the footsteps of Jose Gonzalez and Jens Lekman, this funky little band is the latest musical export from Gothenburg. Little Dragon’s debut album is a collection of smooth jazz tracks laid down with some gorgeous vocals from Yukimi Nagano.
The only introduction we’ve had to them was recent double A-side single Twice and Test, which capably showed two very different sides of a versatile band. Twice kicks off the album. An enchanting and gentle, percussion-free track centred on a melancholic piano phrase, the inventiveness and impressive vocals of Nagano make it clear that this band have something to offer. Test appears later on, with its dominant, chugging drumbeat, although it lacks in melody. But as a two-headed single, it would have left people bemused and wondering what to expect from a whole album of material.
It’s a little disappointing. Nagano’s vocals are wonderful throughout. Dreamy and soulful, they’re comparable to the unique vocals of Nicolette, who featured on Massive Attack‘s Protection album. But after the wonder of Twice, while there are some original touches and some interesting sounds, much of the album is quite run-of-the-mill modern soul.
There are some great tracks on here. After The Rain has a wicked parping brass sound burying itself deep into the bassline, building up to an awesome bridge where Nagano’s shrieking can only leave a trail of tingles up and down the spines of all who listen to it. Recommendation and Constant Surprises are upbeat, happy, summery songs. The latter in particular is full of funk and charm and is guaranteed to get people moving.
Little Dragon have found a home at small London independent record label Peacefrog, and it could work out well for them. Also home to Jose Gonzalez and Nouvelle Vague, Peacefrog artists have a reputation for soundtracking television ads. Little Dragon’s vibe is exactly the kind of thing that could be sampled time and time again for that exact purpose and favoured by coffee shops and chill-out rooms. It’s a good example of that genre, and if you’re after that kind of sound you could do a lot worse than this album. But it’s unlikely to find its way much further afield than that.