Featuring on Flume, Kaytranada and De La Soul records in the past year alone, Little Dragon have followed up the countless collaborations with their fifth studio full-length, Season High. Little Dragon vocalist Yukimi Nagano said she doesn’t want her band to be known as “that band who always does collaborations.”. However, it’s easy to see why the Swedish group are attracting the label when listening to Season High.
Little Dragon have made a considerable effort to shake the ‘collaboration band’ tag over their career. Although the group have made numerous notable guest appearances on albums, their previous four albums contained no features at all. Season High consists of just one, on album opener ‘Celebrate’, which is Agge’s guitar solo. It’s admirable that Little Dragon are forming their own sound without features, but at times Season High would benefit from a return feature from the aforementioned artists. The album lacks some sort of kick, and that kick would definitely be provided by a funky producer like Kaytranada.
Little Dragon’s previous albums have generated tasteful moments, but altogether needed more flavour. The trend continues on Season High, as the album fails to increase in energy at any time, lacking an electronic burst that is particularly needed. I thought the album would finally present a genuine dance-floor filler with the track ‘Strobe Light’. However, the track meanders along without any hooks or tone shifts to get the juices flowing. With a combination of ‘80s sounding synth-pop and the flawless voice of Nagano, there is no reason Little Dragon shouldn’t be able to get listeners moving, but the group’s production on Season High remains generally melancholic.
Little Dragon have carved out a trademark sound since releasing their self-titled debut album way back in 2007 when considering Season High. While Little Dragon’s initial record is soaked in jazz and soul, the remainder of the band’s discography has lent on electronica as the major element. Little Dragon hint at a slight shift towards ‘80s inspired RnB on Season High with album opener ‘Celebrate’, but this motif only sparingly rears its head again. Rather, Little Dragon explore synth slow jams that they have become well known for previously. Extended cuts such as ‘Butterflies’ and album closer ‘Gravity’ add a captivating component to Season High, yet it’s hard not to think Little Dragon missed the chance to up the tempo on these tracks.
The reason Little Dragon are becoming known as the collaboration band is due to their partnerships with other artists overshadowing their own music. The collaborations have had their intended impact: to attract interest from massively successful musicians, like the Gorillaz feature in 2011. However, those features can only carry them so far, and though Little Dragon make the conscious effort to forge their own path, Season High isn’t their strongest work to date.