Danielle Dorky reviews electro Swedish band Little Dragon’s recent album Nabuma Rubberband and gives the record a rare 10-glasses rating.
Band name: Little Dragon
Album name: Nabuma Rubberband
Genre: Electro, R&B
Release date: 5/13/2014
Stand out tracks: “Mirror”, “Klapp Klapp”, “Pretty Girls”, “Cat Rider”, “Pink Cloud”, “Only You”
Relisten value: [Rating:10/10]
Non-skipping streaming: [Rating:10/10]
Dorkproval rating: [Rating:10/10]
In my own personal rating system, I describe a 10-glasses rating as “PERFECTION. This book or album is flawless. The entire review is basically a circle-jerk of praise.” Until now, no book or album I’ve reviewed has earned a 10-glasses rating. Until now.
Nabuma Rubberband is Swedish electro-R&B group Little Dragon’s fourth studio album. I’ve been a fan since the band released their first self-titled album in 2007 and have followed their progression from ethereal and somewhat experimental electronica to their recent foray into 90’s-reminiscent minimalist R&B. The homage to middle-aged (yet not quite old school) R&B is a trend we’ve been seeing a lot in the past few years with artists like James Blake, FKA Twigs, and Blood Orange. Mainstream critics are split on Little Dragon’s soulful takeover, but I think it’s reasonable for a band to evolve throughout their career, and there’s never a moment in Nabuma Rubberband when the arrangements seem forced or phony.
If you ask me, Nabuma Rubberband is the album that 2014 has been impatiently tapping its toes in anticipation of: a record that one can not only stream without skipping, but that will played on repeat for months, allowing its audience to discover a new, hidden element with each listen. The songs flow seamlessly into one another and alternate between that unmistakable, lively Little Dragon sound and a more boundary-pushing psychedelia. As with each album preceding, lead vocalist Yukimi Nagani’s range seems to expand to introduce new octaves, hitting glass-shattering high notes and near-baritone rumbles with ease, making it impossible to predict which sound will dominate next. Each track is perfectly composed yet seems to end too quickly, making me wonder when we’ll be granted a Little Dragon B-sides.
It isn’t just about the vocals and beats with this album though: the lyrics and overarching themes are thoughtful and universally touching. The album’s opening song “Mirror” stood out to me as especially poignant. At first I assumed the antagonist in the lyrics was societal expectations, but after glancing at the title again, I realized that it was addressing our self-perceptions. Taking the lyrics more literally, I contemplated how true they were: how often I’ve scowled at my own image in the mirror, or those days when I avert my eyes from my reflection entirely, avoiding an awkward exchange.
The superficial title “Pretty Girls” seems almost ironic, its lyrics challenging many of the standards women are held to. The lines “You magnify the universe/Grab your purse,” are empowering, implying that despite whatever shallow trappings we may fall prey to, women are still powerful beyond measure.
I should probably note that I’ve listened to Nabuma Rubberband approximately six times a day since it’s release last week. If these interpretations seem a little overanalyzed or far-reaching, feel free to come to your own conclusions upon listening. The most important part is that you do listen.
If you’re the type to ignore lyrics and zone out to a beat, Nabuma Rubberband doesn’t disappoint in that regard either. Besides the ambient R&B, there’s a hint of disco interlaced with Little Dragon’s signature electro sound. Songs like “Klapp Klapp”, “Paris” and “Let Go” will bring you to your feet and have you shoulder shimmying your problems away.
Whether you’re looking for the perfect playlist to set your Saturday night in motion, or treating it like research for an unassigned dissertation like me, Nabuma Rubberband promises to keep you on your toes with playful beats and surprising expansions into new genres. If for some reason you’ve been living under a rock the past six years and haven’t heard of Little Dragon, watch the video for their first single “Klapp Klapp” above and see a glimpse of what earned their fourth release such an exalting, circle-jerk of a review.