Swedish indie darlings Little Dragon have teamed up on recordings with notables such as Gorillaz and Raphael Saadiq. They also count Erykah Badu among their admirers. These associations might lead some to peg their lush, insistent electronics as neo-soul or alternative hip-hop, but their music is really just rhythmically dynamic pop — genre-spanning body music at its most effervescent and alluring.
Pressing yet vulnerable, the title track on the new “Ritual Union” sounds like an electro-tweaked update of the sleek Holland-Dozier-Holland-produced hits of mid-’60s Motown. “Little Man,” meanwhile, is techno-pop with hooks galore. “There’s something missing in your smile / Something missing in your soul,” chirps Swedish-Japanese frontwoman Yukimi Nagano. These lines might be true of the guy on the receiving end of that negative assessment, but they couldn’t be less apropos of the soulful Nagano, especially on “Brush the Heat,” on which, singing in a lower register than usual, she rides a sultry undertow amid a maelstrom of skittering breakbeats.
“Seconds,” an atmospheric ballad, recalls the dreamy reveries of British alt-dance troupe Saint Etienne, while “Precious,” with its fetching singsong vocals and yawning groove, is built upon wet snare drum and washes of keyboard. Impelled by pulsating off-beats and quivering synth sustains, “Please Turn” is reminiscent of post-punk Welsh minimalists Young Marble Giants at their groove-intoxicated best. Jittery beats abound here, but introspection is present in equal measure and nowhere so much as in “Summertearz,” a haunting ballad — that is if it makes sense to call such a lovely but kinetic workout a ballad.
“Ritual Union,” “Please Turn,” “Summertearz”