Season High will get you high on love and funky dance pop no matter what Little Dragon says.Loma Vista Recordings, 2017
6.1 / 10
In the press release for Little Dragon‘s fifth album, frontwoman Yukimi Nagano said, “We have grown through the years but the making of this album has been a struggle.” She follows that up by saying, “It gets harder and harder for us to make records but we still love it. Sometimes it feels like we have 100% passion and life or death emotions, yet there’s a pointlessness with everything.” Okay, try not to sell me on the record, Yukimi. Although her statements allude to Season High, being a messy, “pointless” effort, it’s actually not that bad. Especially when put up against its predecessor, Nabuma Rubberband, an album made for Soundcloud producers to re-purpose. Sure, producers could easily manipulate Season High‘s songs to their hearts’ content. However, none of them need it. They sit very well as exuberant pieces of synth pop with flourishes of R&B and hip hop.
No doubt Yukimi Nagano has an enticing voice. If her frustrations in Little Dragon result in the band’s demise, she’s got a stellar solo career ahead of her. However, she doesn’t completely steal the show here either. Her band mates provide plenty of memorable hooks and experimental beats for her striking vocals. “The Pop Life” comes to mind as particularly thrilling with its exciting, electric-charged beat. Its climax is an explosion of synths with shrapnel going in every direction. Elsewhere, they’re less forceful on “Butterflies” where they go for dreamy instead. The choice pairs well with the song’s poetic lyrical imagery. Nagano sings, “Bright white, emerald green/ Silk blown, sailing seas/ And the spotted wings.” At times, the synths are volatile like the winds blowing the titular butterflies about in the air.
While Season High is a fairly solid dance album, it fails on some of its themes. Little Dragon seem to be attempting at a statement on the entertainment industry with songs like “The Pop Life” and “Push”. Both are keen to financials. On “The Pop Life”, Nagano sings, “Got our new bags/ Popping them tags/ All I see is dollar signs.” Then on “Push” she sings, “Push, then let’s stack up the cash/ Push, sipping on the good life.” Lots of celebratory drinking comes with the good life apparently, which explains the song’s opening beer belch. Neither song skewers the entertainment world if that’s the intention. Instead, they state the obvious with observations on fame and entitlement, which never go anywhere.
Also, Season High is high on songs about feeling high. Not from drugs, silly, but the emotion of love. “High” makes the second song about love as a drug that I’ve heard in one week. The other being on K.Flay’s album, Every Where Is Some Where. Little Dragon’s song at least captures the sensuality of the feeling. This is straight up doin’ it music. Of course, it wouldn’t be complete without at least one reference to drugs as Nagano sings, “Feel free to roll another one for me.” “Sweet” shares this same sentiment, describing love like a sugar high while dazzling the ears with funky Prince-like electro-pop. Then, on album closer, “Gravity”, the love gets literally too high as gravity can’t even hold it to the ground. Fortunately, most of this album feels like a high note despite Yukimi’s anti-hype.