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: Best Of

Best Of only offers a truncated, abridged version of three quality records that, ironically, misses out on much of the Swedish synthpop band's best music.

Little Dragon

Best Of

Label: Peacefrog
US Release Date: 2014-04-22
UK Release Date: 2014-10-27

As we move further into the era of internet radio, instant downloads, and widely available streaming services, the role of the traditional greatest hits album should be called into question. Repackaging and reselling songs from an artist’s career that meet some vague, arbitrary criteria today seems like an antiquated remnant of a music industry that still refuses to let go of outdated business practices, an archaic music delivery model in a time when Spotify, YouTube, and – there’s no sense ignoring them – torrenting sites are all seconds away from consumers. What purpose do these compilations serve when one can simply tune into Michael Jackson radio on Pandora, shuffle Madonna’s most popular tracks on Spotify, or watch Paul McCartney perform full live sets on YouTube in a matter of seconds?

In the case of Swedish synthpop group Little Dragon’s Best Of, the relative value is embarrassingly small. Best Of, compiled by Peacefrog Records, features 14 tracks that Little Dragon released on the label before moving to Republic for their fourth album, Nabuma Rubberband. That’s right: Best Of comes after only three full-length Little Dragon albums, a band that’s had minimal mainstream success and no “hits” to speak of. Make no mistake, Best Of appears very clearly to be a cynical cash-grab by the band’s former label hoping to profit from the almost sure success of the then-upcoming Nabuma Rubberband, but even if that weren't the case, Best Of is an unnecessary and slapdash venture.

Let’s break down the contents of the compilation: of the 14 included tracks (picked for this collection seemingly at random), five come from Little Dragon’s 2007 self-titled debut and their 2009 follow-up Machine Dreams each, only three from 2011’s Ritual Union, and one non-album single (“Sunshine,” which coincidentally kicks off the collection). This means that owning one of the band’s first two records means owning more than one-third of Best Of (plus a proper Little Dragon record), meaning one would be better off purchasing one of the other two albums – or better yet the excellent Nabuma Rubberband – rather than shelling out for a shallow, incomplete version of the Little Dragon library.

For the uninitiated, Little Dragon is one of those unabashedly modern bands that somehow manage to fuse synthpop and new wave sensibilities with dreamy, soulful vocals to create a sugary lightness paradoxically weighed down by melancholic sensuality. The songs on Best Of do actually showcase the breadth of the Little Dragon spectrum, from the dark seduction of piano ballad “Twice” to the minimalist upbeat pop tones of “Recommendation”, with vocalist Yukimi Nagano providing a constant gravitational center for the plucky, understated electronic drums and atmospheric synthesizer licks. Flavorful, shimmering synth-driven songs like “Feather”, “Runabout” and “Sunshine” serve as reliable counterpoints for the restless yearning of slow jams like “Fortune”, “No Love” and “Scribbled Paper”, while the off-beat charm of “Test” and “Little Man” stand alone. If Best Of succeeds at anything, it’s showing the flexibility of Little Dragon’s electro-soul sound.

It’s still difficult to reconcile the disparity between the beautiful music on the album and the offensive manner in which it’s been repackaged. The songs are great, of course, and they’re sequenced fairly sensibly, but the standards for a “best of” compilation need to be higher than what is basically a shuffled playlist of an artist’s first three albums, especially when each of those albums are all well within a moment’s grasp.

The bottom line is that Little Dragon is an exceptionally talented band, but this is not the best way to experience their catalog. From that perspective, it’s impossible to recommend Best Of, especially since Nabuma Rubberband, arguably the band’s best release, came just months later, arranged the way that they originally intended it to be heard. If you’re new to Little Dragon’s music and would prefer a sampler such as this as a jumping-off point, by all means seek this collection out, but know that you’re essentially paying for a truncated, abridged version of three quality records from a talented young band that deserves much better.


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.





Artemis Is the Latest Jazz Supergroup

A Blue Note supergroup happens to be made up of women, exclusively. Artemis is an inconsistent outing, but it dazzles just often enough.


Horrors in the Closet: A Closet Full of Monsters

A closet full of monsters is a scary place where "straight people" can safely negotiate and articulate their fascination and/or dread of "difference" in sexuality.


'Wildflowers & All the Rest' Is Tom Petty's Masterpiece

Wildflowers is a masterpiece because Tom Petty was a good enough songwriter by that point to communicate exactly what was on his mind in the most devastating way possible.


Jazz Composer Maria Schneider Takes on the "Data Lords" in Song

Grammy-winning jazz composer Maria Schneider released Data Lords partly as a reaction to her outrage that streaming music services are harvesting the data of listeners even as they pay musicians so little that creativity is at risk. She speaks with us about the project.


The 100 Best Albums of the 2000s: 100-81

PopMatters' best albums of the 2000s begin with a series of records that span epic metal, ornate indie folk, and a terrifying work of electronic music.


The Power of Restraint in Sophie Yanow, Paco Roca, and Elisa Macellari's New Graphic Novels

The magical quality that makes or breaks a graphic novel lies somewhere in that liminal space in which art and literature intersect.


'People of the City' Is an Unrelenting Critique of Colonial Ideology and Praxis

Cyprian Ekwensi's People of the City is a vivid tale of class struggle and identity reclamation in the shadows of colonialism's reign.


1979's 'This Heat' Remains a Lodestone for Avant-Rock Adventure

On their self-titled debut, available for the first time on digital formats, This Heat delivered an all-time classic stitched together from several years of experiments.


'The Edge of Democracy' and Parallels of Political Crises

Academy Award-nominated documentary The Edge of Democracy, now streaming on Netflix, lays bare the political parallels of the rise of Bolsonaro's Brazil with Trump's America.


The Pogues' 'The BBC Sessions 1984-1986' Honors Working-Class Heroes

The Pogues' BBC Sessions 1984-1986 is a welcome chapter in the musical story of these working-class heroes, who reminded listeners of the beauty and dignity of the strong, sooty backs upon which our industrialized world was built.


Mary Halvorson Creates Cacophony to Aestheticize on 'Artlessly Falling'

Mary Halvorson's Artlessly Falling is a challenging album with tracks comprised of improvisational fragments more than based on compositional theory. Halvorson uses the various elements to aestheticize the confusing world around her.


15 Overlooked and Underrated Albums of the 1990s

With every "Best of the '90s" retrospective comes a predictable list of entries. Here are 15 albums that are often overlooked as worthy of placing in these lists, and are too often underrated as some of the best records from the decade.


'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.

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.