After a slew of critically acclaimed albums, you could say that Swedish electronic/dance band Little Dragon has been experiencing “season high” numbers, so it makes sense that its latest studio album is called Season High. The band is bigger than it’s ever been and has collaborated with a range of highly successful artists like the Gorillaz, Flume, SBTRKT and Odesza, which contrasts the “little” part of the band’s name.
In Season High, which came out April 14, Little Dragon keeps to itself and delivers a 10-song tracklist of mellow electronic music lined with rhythms that, at times, are too subtle and at other times confusing.
After listening to Season High a few times through, I came to realize that the album struggles to establish an identity. While all the tracks stick to an electronic foundation, some songs feel more experimental than others. Although the band isn’t afraid to push the boundary of experimentation, within the context of the album, preceding a `80s-type track like “Celebrate” with a deeper, slower song like “High” and then cutting to a trancy-type number like “The Pop Life” did not help in giving me a solid first impression of what to expect next. Some of the tracks themselves also suffer from this identity crisis.
The standout tracks on Season High, namely “High,” “Sweet” and” “Strobe Light” work well because they are cohesive and deliver a more direct tone that leaves you satisfied after listening. However, not all tracks are formulated like that. The opening track, “Celebrate,” for example, has a clear `80s synthpop foundation to it, complete with a deep funky bassline and a noisy snare, but not much else. The track is airy and relies on numerous arbitrary synths that drive the tone of the song away from a solid footing. “Push” is another song that falls victim to tonal disagreements with the clunky bass and the loungy piano chords that accompany it.
There are a lot of positives to look forward to on the album, though. Yukimi Nagano’s vocals are as suave as ever and often steal the show in tracks like “Don’t Cry” and “High” where the instrumentation takes a back seat. Speaking of instrumentation, when the synths and the drums are cohesive, Nagano’s vocals are the icing on the cake — the cake being smooth, tasty baselines and solid percussion.
Season High is difficult to describe because the album itself makes it hard to do so. There are tracks that remind me of what Little Dragon does best, but other tracks seem to be missing either more pronounced flavors, or too many flavors that don’t work well together. Sifting through the tracklist was like separating egg whites from a whole egg in your hand, where all you’re left with is the yolk and the rest is forgettable.
Season High gets a 7.5 out of 10.
Contact CU Independent Arts Staff Writer Alvaro Sanchez at Alvaro.Sanchez@colorado.edu.