It turns out that New Me, Same Us is a pretty appropriate title for Little Dragon‘s sixth studio album. The Swedish quartet have been on a three year hiatus, and such a break has inevitably left them sounding recharged and revitalized. Sonically though, there’s no major surprises – this is very much a Little Dragon album which sits cosily next to the rest of their back catalogue.
That’s no bad thing of course, as it means another album full of off-kilter pop gems dominated by Yukimi Nagano’s distinctive, yearning vocals. Opening track Hold On is an optimistic, sunny disco number while Are You Feeling Sad seems to a song tailor-made to our current global pandemic related concerns: “No worries, no worries, you’re gonna be alright, don’t worry, don’t worry, things gonna turn out fine” runs the percussive-heavy chorus. It may seem a bit trite, but sometimes comfort listening is all we require.
Yet New Me, Same Us is very much a slow-burner of a record. There’s nothing as immediate as past tracks like Ritual Union or Killing Me, and like a lot of Little Dragon’s previous albums, there’s a tendency to meander and become a bit too laid-back. Yet when they hit the heights, they can really shine.
New Fiction is a prime example of this, sitting right in the middle of the album. Opening with a burst of chimes, it slowly unwraps itself into a languid neo-soul anthem, with a deep bass and jazzy piano adding embellishments to the song. Kids also grabs the attention, right from Nagano’s opening declaration of “I feel good – my life is about to explode!”, while Sadness, in direct contrast to its title, is probably the album’s most upbeat moment, full of energetic beats and an atmosphere that’s redolent of ’70s disco.
In common with a fair amount of Little Dragon’s previous output though, New Me, Same Us seems to work better in small chunks than as an album as a whole. There’s something about the smooth, glossy sound that means that, after a while, each song seems to merge into one. While there’s nothing particularly bad about the album – quite the opposite in fact, as it’s beautifully written and played – it’s not really the sort of record you’d keep coming back as anything other than background music.
There’s also the issue that, since Little Dragon have such a distinctive sound, that much of the record sounds a bit dated – a missive from another time when Morcheeba and Zero 7 soundtracked every dinner party. For that reason, it may not connect with today’s record-buying (or record-streaming) public. That doesn’t mean that New Me, Same Us isn’t without its highlights though, and listening to it just demonstrates exactly why the band have enjoyed such longevity.