Album Review: Season High by Little Dragon

The Swedish electronic group Little Dragon deliver an assured hypnotic trip with their fifth set.

Fredrik Wallin, Håkan Wirenstrand, Yukimi Nagano, Erik Bodin (PC: Consequence of Sound)

Season High is the work of artists who know exactly what they’re doing, and Little Dragon — who have been around for two decades now — are just those artists.

Season High is drug-funk synesthesia: an infectious spell I’ve been lost in countless times while writing this review. Songs bleed into each other in a way that makes the album feel more fully-realized than repetitive, the production is impeccably balanced, and the overall experience is a flawless trip.

The opener, “Celebrate,” immediately sets the stage with a fully-fleshed out sex bop. The otherworldly synth beat seems to slowly cruise in and out as the simple drumbeat carries the song.

“Celebrate” has the perfect pacing, fast enough to where you could probably dance to it any way you want, but still slow enough that you have no problem sitting back and taking it in. Season High maintains this perfect tempo throughout: it’s an experience you want to let wash over you all the while it conjures up high-energy imagery of a being in a club, flashing lights drawing out silhouetted bodies as they sweat their systems out.

What’s striking beyond the effortless flow of the music is the intimate sensuality to it all, making Season High feel a part with the Giorgio Moroder-era club hits of the 80s. “High” is a slow-burn, respectably forward about the fact that high means high here, and conveying that in probably the most tasteful way imaginable. Yukimi Nagano’s vocals excel here, and it’s a highlight of the album for me.

“High” is followed by the one-two punch of “The Pop Life” and “Sweet,” two higher energy tracks that fully embrace the club vibe with bass-heavy, percussive natures. “Sweet” boasts an exceptionally catchy chorus, but both songs are equally fantastic, leading up to the best track on Season High, “Butterflies.”

“Butterflies” is an ethereal, slow-reveal of a song. The lyrics are hypnotic, the keys feel otherworldly, and everything gels together amazingly over the course of six minutes that just don’t seem long enough.

“Should I Care” follows up to “Butterflies,” tying together the more earthy back half of the album with the interstellar first half in a remarkably inventive three-minute track. The back half of the album begins to remind me slightly of Solange’s A Seat at the Table in its airiness, especially “Don’t Cry,” with Nagano’s vocals again proving remarkable. And while it may not be as beautifully political and of-its-time as the younger Knowles’ sister’s magnum opus, the sound is more than welcome.

“Strobe Lights” brings a hand-made feel into the album that keeps the final stretch feeling fresh. The production here makes it feel like you’re right next to every band member. Instead of committing to the out-of-this-world feel Season High initially excels at, Little Dragon demonstrates their full dexterity. “Push” seems even closer, an intimate grind with throbbing bass.

The finale, “Gravity,” is another epic track in the vein of “Butterflies” that slowly zooms out into the otherworldly. While it may not gel for me in the way “Butterflies” does, “Gravity” is still a perfect example of everything that makes this album so great.

Poetic lyrics are conveyed through music that is equal parts organic and perfectly manufactured, and the effect pulls the listener right back into space, ready to start their trip with Little Dragon once more when “Celebrate” starts again—you have this on repeat too, right?

10/10.

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