The Little Dragon Movement

Feature photo by Ciera McKissick of amfm

To love Little Dragon is to belong to a specific secret paradoxical club that you want to tell everyone about. Everyone exists as an outsider, until they want in, and then it’s “the more the merrier.” That’s a movement. That’s the power of music.

You need Little Dragon in your life. Yes, you. Longtime fans’ll be happy to share, because when we speak of universality in music, Little Dragon embodies it to the very core. You’d be hard-pressed to find another band with a more diverse fanbase, and that’s what it’s all about, isn’t it?You don’t believe me? Ask anyone. For real. Ask any type of person who digs on Yukimi and Friends, and in doing so you’ll find just that: EVERY TYPE OF PERSON. Radical inclusivity through creativity being the main objective, no act captures the zeitgeist of that ideology better than Little Dragon.

With this year’s Season High and supporting tour in full swing, let’s take a look at the power they’ve encapsulated over 20+ years together (they formed in 1996 in Gothenburg, Sweden). Sending out sophisticated instrumentation signals alongside a sense of insight to lyrics unseen from most, if not any, Swedish dance music, the Little Dragon swagger has always gone beyond genre, against the grain, and sooner than later everyone will be hip to the style. Bringing in James Ford and Patrik Berger to mediate a bit and end their notorious knack for overthinking things in the studio and just produce paid off. For better or worse, whatever your stance on the particular process for recording, the results speak for themselves. Season High is as perfectly polished as an insightful, edgy electro-pop album with moody swings and soulful, Utopian grooves can possibly be. Defining Little Dragon is an exercise in futility though, and doing so puts limits on something seemingly completely limitless. Listening from front to back, you can feel the focus. The development from their self-titled debut to now is undeniable, and I’ve currently penciled in Season High as a 2017 Top 5 album. They have aged to perfection like a fine wine, eclipsing a world of craft beer and fleeting trends, cementing their legacy as a music powerhouse.

A reason remains for the time in between Little Dragon projects/events (Let’s face it. There are a handful of musical acts whose releases become more than just an album, graduating to full-fledged event status. Little Dragon is one of them. Radiohead comes to mind as another. Frank Ocean. Yet I digress…): you can’t rush genius, as the saying goes. Sure, if you have the production capability plus the content to complement it (Kendrick Lamar comes to mind), you can put something out every year, but Season High hits with a force well worth the three year wait in between records. Keeping in mind that in between projects of their own, they’ve kept plenty busy within the industry, arming themselves with the best feature game this side of Andre 3000. They’ve taken their talents to enhance tracks by some of the industry’s heaviest hitters, adding De La Soul, Flume, and KAYTRANADA to their earlier list of collaborators. For fun, here’s a playlist of my favorite Little Dragon features (Ritual Union to conclude as a way to show their musical union as ritual with other artists):

If 2014’s Nabuma Rubbermaid was Little Dragon’s breakout album, then Season High is their victory lap. Somewhat teetering between underground legends and mainstream darlings after all these years, Yukimi’s realization and natural progression into rock-star status becomes more and more obvious with every appearance, and we found ourselves on the scene for their captivating after show set leading up to Lollapalooza at Concord Music Hall.

What we found out firsthand was exactly how a music festival is supposed to kickoff. Yukimi was as powerful as ever, announcing through her performance that she is everything you could ever dream of in a leader, weaving her reflective, moving songwriting into instrumentation that already has the capability to move a crowd physically. Little Dragon is more than a band releasing momentous albums and generating moments of gyration paired with mental stimulation. As I alluded to earlier, Little Dragon is a movement.

Lollapalooza photos by Ilene Palacios

The Little Dragon Movement made its way to the Lollapalooza Lake Shore Drive stage for, hands down, a top 5 Lollapalooza performance ever, imo. As with Season High, listening to live Little Dragon allows the experiencer to see the world through kaleidoscopic lenses, cover oneself in glitter sparkles, put trails on everything, snuggle up with the strobe light, and be the best version of yourself on the best trip you can imagine. All superlatives and notions of hyperbole aside, their set was the danciest party during the relatively underwhelming four day extravaganza (seriously, are The Killers just the Lollapalooza house band now or what?), introducing plenty of new material from Season High while assuaging any old school fans of a nonexistent fear of the band forgetting where they came from with plenty of old stuff sprinkled into their supernatural set. As visually stunning onstage as the songs are audibly themselves, Little Dragon’s live performances stand as a testament to must-see concert experiences.

Håkan Wirenstrand on keyboards, Fredrik Källgren Wallin on keyboards and bass, and Erik Bodin on drums backing the beauty of Yukimi’s originality, Little Dragon reflected in their music the diversity of their audience and took Lollapalooza to heights unseen in all of Grant Park up to that point. Combining elements of Bjork and Erykah Badu to present a visual element overshadowed only by the pure talent she and her bandmates possess, the highlight of their set was an extended version of Strobe Light, seemingly lasting forever while simultaneously not long enough.

“Lollapalooza thank you for dancin’ tonight! Lots and lots and lots of love. Peace.”

-Yukimi, signing off from the LSD stage

Here’s to the everlasting movement that Little Dragon has created over the years, serving us a sample-size during their visit to Chicago. Here’s to the eternal love, peace, and soul The Movement provides…