PopMatters is moving to WordPress in December. We will continue to publish on this site as we work on the move. We aim to make it a seamless experience for readers.


Little Dragon: Nabuma Rubberband

Delectably strange pop from the consistent Swedish quartet.

Little Dragon

Nabuma Rubberband

Label: Republic
US Release Date: 2014-05-13
UK Release Date: 2014-05-13
Label website
Artist website

Modern pop is in a strange place. Crossovers abound from Juicy J showing up on "Dark Horse" to Miley teaming up with the Flaming Lips. It's exciting to watch a genre often maligned as pandering to a mass audience have experimental edges creep into the mainstream conscious. In 2014 the most intriguing (and possibly strangest) development is Nabuma Rubberband. It's a fascinating mix of soul, trip-hop, and American pop born out of Gothenburg, Sweden, of all places. It happily bounces from genre to genre, spearheaded by an odd and mesmerizingly great frontwoman, backed with subtly brilliant production. And this Scandinavian quartet have made one of the year's best pop albums.

For the last few years Little Dragon have been making waves through lead singer Yukimi Nagano's features. She gave show stopping performances on Gorillaz's "Empire Ants" and had a break out guest spot on SBTRKT's "Wildfire". Damon Albarn and SBTRKT were smart enough to let Nagano carry the songs she appeared on, letting her strangely beautiful voice take center stage. Nagano continues her streak of excellence here. She's got a stunning range, in terms of both pitch and emotion. The band mythos states that the name "Little Dragon" came from Nagano's temper during recording sessions and there's still a fiery anger here, though she reveals it in subtle ways. Her first words on the album are "You know you're making me mad…" and the ending consonant is twisted so it sounds like a "t". When Nagano sings "You're gonna make me put my fist through this mirror", it isn't screamed, and that makes it all the more intense. On the other end of the spectrum Nagano can work a more narrative perspective looking at daily life from an outsider's point of few. "His white shirts still hanging in rows on the closet door / She still hurts / Fragments of you live on," Nagano sings on the opening verse of "Underbart". Shifting relationships are the main component of Nagano's lyrics. "Somebody from his head said / You can turn off and feel better," she croons on "Klapp Klapp" before the bridge comes in with "Gimme me one more / The girl from the corridor sing, she sing / I hear you want it, don't you?" She also touches on Little Dragon's international touring with evocative lines like "Cigar smoke stretchin' over borders / Creepin' like silent thief."

Nagano has plenty of stunning moments on Nabuma Rubberband, but it's clear this is a full band enterprise. Album highlight "Klapp Klapp" has one of Nagano's best vocal lines, but bassist Fredrik Källgren Wallin introduces the song perfectly with a high energy duet with drummer Erik Bodin. The dynamic chemistry between Wallin and Bodin drives a majority of these songs along. The smooth and propulsive "Underbart" has Wallin's synth bass holding down the low end while Bodin propels the song along with high-hats and cowbells. The ethereal "Cat Rider" seems ready to evaporate at a moment's notice, but Bodin and Wallin make sure the song has a strong, yet understated, foundation, allowing Nagano's beautiful voice to chastise a friend with "Stop playing with the one you love." Keyboardist Håkan Wirenstrand has a wonderful habit of forcing these songs into dancier territory. The creeping line on "Killing Me", the bouncing title track, and the singing synths of "Underbart" are just a few of his best moments. If there's any other group that Bodin, Wallin, and Wirenstrand's playing is reminiscent of it's Rhye. Much like Woman, Little Dragon's newest release has a deeply sleek and romantic feel. The title track run parallel to songs like "Open" or "The Fall" with well curated string sections.

In groups like this it's hard to strike a balance between letting the singer carry the song and having the band create their own grand structures. Thankfully, Nagano never devolves into a diva, instead she bonds her voice to the backgrounds conjured by the rest of Little Dragon. When she shatters glass on "Mirror" the response is, what sounds like, an off-kilter saxophone accompanying her anger. On the more restrained songs Nagano rests her voice with more languid notes, but quickly switches when Bodin energizes the pieces. "Paris" has rapid verses that match the instruments' energy. "Paris" is also a great example of the crossover appeal that Nabuma Rubberband holds. "Paris" is sure to be a hit in indie communities, but the chorus of "Dreams pass, my black dress / Folded on a big mess / I'm changing my next flight to Paris", could easily become a dancefloor chant. The song primed to be a massive hit for Little Dragon is "Klapp Klapp". It's similar to Phantogram's "Howling at the Moon". Both songs are driven by badass frontwomen and absolutely banging production. If you want to follow Daft Punk's advice and lose yourself to dance get engulfed by "Klapp Klapp". Though that advice could go for just about any song here.


Please Donate to Help Save PopMatters

PopMatters have been informed by our current technology provider that we have until December to move off their service. We are moving to WordPress and a new host, but we really need your help to fund the move and further development.





'A Peculiar Indifference' Takes on Violence in Black America

Pulitzer Prize finalist Elliott Currie's scrupulous investigation of the impacts of violence on Black Americans, A Peculiar Indifference, shows the damaging effect of widespread suffering and identifies an achievable solution.


20 Songs From the 1990s That Time Forgot

Rather than listening to Spotify's latest playlist, give the tunes from this reminiscence of lost '90s singles a spin.


Delightful 'Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day' Is Good Escapism

Now streaming on Amazon Prime, Bharat Nalluri's 2008 romantic comedy, Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day, provides pleasant respite in these times of doom and gloom.


The 10 Best Horror Movie Remakes

The horror genre has produced some remake junk. In the case of these ten treats, the update delivers something definitive.


Flirting with Demons at Home, or, When TV Movies Were Evil

Just in time for Halloween, a new Blu-ray from Kino Lorber presents sparkling 2K digital restorations of TV movies that have been missing for decades: Fear No Evil (1969) and its sequel, Ritual of Evil (1970).


Magick Mountain Are Having a Party But Is the Audience Invited?

Garage rockers Magick Mountain debut with Weird Feelings, an album big on fuzz but light on hooks.


Aalok Bala Revels in Nature and Contradiction on EP 'Sacred Mirror'

Electronic musician Aalok Bala knows the night is not a simple mirror, "silver and exact"; it phases and echoes back, alive, sacred.


Clipping Take a Stab at Horrorcore with the Fiery 'Visions of Bodies Being Burned'

Clipping's latest album, Visions of Bodies Being Burned, is a terrifying, razor-sharp sequel to their previous ode to the horror film genre.


Call Super's New LP Is a Digital Biosphere of Insectoid and Otherworldly Sounds

Call Super's Every Mouth Teeth Missing is like its own digital biosphere, rife with the sounds of the forest and the sounds of the studio alike.


Laura Veirs Talks to Herself on 'My Echo'

The thematic connections between these 10 Laura Veirs songs and our current situation are somewhat coincidental, or maybe just the result of kismet or karmic or something in the zeitgeist.


15 Classic Horror Films That Just Won't Die

Those lucky enough to be warped by these 15 classic horror films, now available on Blu-ray from The Criterion Collection and Kino Lorber, never got over them.


Every Song on the Phoenix Foundation's 'Friend Ship' Is a Stand-Out

Friend Ship is the Phoenix Foundation's most personal work and also their most engaging since their 2010 classic, Buffalo.


Kevin Morby Gets Back to Basics on 'Sundowner'

On Sundowner, Kevin Morby sings of valleys, broken stars, pale nights, and the midwestern American sun. Most of the time, he's alone with his guitar and a haunting mellotron.


Lydia Loveless Creates Her Most Personal Album with 'Daughter'

Given the turmoil of the era, you might expect Lydia Loveless to lean into the anger, amplifying the electric guitar side of her cowpunk. Instead, she created a personal record with a full range of moods, still full of her typical wit.


Flowers for Hermes: An Interview with Performing Activist André De Shields

From creating the title role in The Wiz to winning an Emmy for Ain't Misbehavin', André De Shields reflects on his roles in more than four decades of iconic musicals, including the GRAMMY and Tony Award-winning Hadestown.


The 13 Greatest Horror Directors of All Time

In honor of Halloween, here are 13 fascinating fright mavens who've made scary movies that much more meaningful.


British Jazz and Soul Artists Interpret the Classics on '​Blue Note Re:imagined'

Blue Note Re:imagined provides an entrance for new audiences to hear what's going on in British jazz today as well as to go back to the past and enjoy old glories.


Bill Murray and Rashida Jones Add Another Shot to 'On the Rocks'

Sofia Coppola's domestic malaise comedy On the Rocks doesn't drown in its sorrows -- it simply pours another round, to which we raise our glass.

Collapse Expand Reviews

Collapse Expand Features

PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.