Little Dragon – New Me, Same Us (3 stars)

Little Dragon – New Me, Same Us

Swedish electronic group return with an entirely self-produced new record that is pleasant and playful

It hasn't been all smooth sailing for Little Dragon. Legend has it that the band's name was an adoption of the nickname given to singer Yukimi Nagano for her fiery temper. Artistic disagreement has at times threatened the productivity of this self-described 'four strong wills who find it really frustrating to compromise'. After decades of making music together, New Me, Same Us represents a turning point for the band, and a renewed sense of kinship has come from a focus on shedding ego and seeing themselves as part of a bigger picture.

Throughout their 20-year run together, Little Dragon have enjoyed a good share of success, receiving Grammy nominations and much polite critical applause. This light simmer has never quite come to the boil, but they continue to churn out their escapist alt-pop, and their fifth full-length release washes over you in a wave of just what you'd expect.

Lead single 'Hold On' lays down a funky, bass-heavy groove, with a smattering of cowbell sparkling on top. Nagano's vocal is as soulful and arresting as ever, but by the time the singalong chorus arrives, things are already falling a bit flat. 'Rush' is a refreshing breeze of beachy guitar and a light cumbia/reggaeton-esque groove, but again it lacks a good catchy hook. There are plenty of playful timbral moments – the East Asian piano sounds on 'Kids', the whimsical choir of synths on 'Stay Right Here' – but these are all quickly lost in layers of sonic stodge.

New Me, Same Us is a pleasant listen. Whack it on in the background during a bright spring morning and it would probably go down a treat. Perhaps it's down to their new-found collective harmony, but Little Dragon's newest release is missing a spark that would make it more memorable.

Out Fri 27 Mar on Ninja Tune.

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