Music Reviews
Season High

Little Dragon Season High

(Loma Vista) Buy it from Insound Rating - 5/10

Little Dragon seldom get due acknowledgment for partially pioneering a great deal of the electronic-tinged rhythm and blues that currently permeates streaming platforms. The Gothenburg unit have worked themselves up with a drive that is truly admirable, gradually piecing together an eclectic assortment of song forms that proves they can work within any musical template they see fit.

It’s through their wildly eclectic songwriting choices that they’ve become such a hot commodity for other artists, though not once have they’ve ever considered compromising their own efforts if it would bring their main project to an eventual demise. There’s no question of the loyalty involved, but it still remains to be seen whether they’re willing to insert some structure into their sonically adventurous pursuits.

Which leads into their latest effort, Season High, where they attempt to relive the transitional Reagan-Bush Sr. dance pop era with a drive that, to their credit, can be occasionally infectious. The loquacious synths and sugar-rush grooves of Sweet are irresistibly fun, a fitting reminder that Little Dragon fill that difficult niche of balancing accessible songwriting with a carefully considered outline. It’s the more chummy accompaniment to headier tracks like Should I, where the band emphasizes more radiant textures without compromising leader singer Yukimu Nagano’s flawlessly melodious singing.

As it is with every Little Dragon album, there’s always a fair amount of standalone singles that will outshine the rest of the lot. It leads into these very confusing moments where their limitless indulgences hinder some of their focus: The Pop Life is a bewilderingly cluttered look into the excesses of consumption with a Euro pop flair that feels too rushed for Nagano’s more patient delivery, while the modish, runway-ready pulse of Push (which, you guessed it, also references a “magazine star”) emphasizes their apparent fascination with fashion and glamour akin to Bedtime Stories-era Madonna.

It’d be an alluring concept to fully explore, but Little Dragon approach their subjects at face value with little to no depth. Which makes it even more frustrating when they aim for more esoteric musical terrain: Don’t Cry is downright elegiac with its starry atmospherics, providing aid to someone’s distress with a candied embrace that touches one’s soul. It also has no reason to exist within the general abstraction of Season High. But they also stubbornly reach for gravitas in Gravity, a sultrier finale about holding on to what you have that pushes too far into “epic” status with no rhyme or reason.

While Season High has its showstopping moments, as a whole it tries to cram in too many ideas into a variety of disjointed themes. There’s no denying that Little Dragon know how to propel their artistry with some carefully arranged songs that never succumb to a status quo, but it also makes one wonder how much farther they could possibly go if they found a way to refine their insatiable ambitions.