Little Dragon cannot be wholly pinned down. For nearly two decades and over seven albums, the Gothenburg band have made elusive, understated music that combines pop and soul sensibilities with electronic production, often to critical fanfare but rarely moving beyond a deeply appreciative and relatively stable audience. Following from 2020’s fine if somewhat unremarkable New Me, Same Us, Slugs of Love marks a step up for Little Dragon both stylistically and compositionally. Slugs of Love sounds fresh and fun, yet with all the refinement listeners should expect from a Little Dragon album.
Drawing from disco, funk, and R&B, Slugs of Love is a brilliantly produced work of genre-crossing electronic music. Little Dragon’s combination of synthesized and live instrumentation and Yukimi Nagano’s neo-soul stylings is at its best here, achieving an artful balance of danceable tunes and reflective moods.
“Disco Dangerous”, “Stay”, and “Kenneth” showcase Little Dragon’s groovier side, particularly when it comes to low-end. Disco is a bright and bouncy mover, propelled by a sticky bassline and some sweet vocals from Yukimi. “Stay” recalls Prince with its synth bass and croons, assisted by an inspired and unexpected singing/rap feature from masterful (and underrated) JID. Little Dragon have never sounded funkier on “Kenneth”, with one of Slugs of Love’s many great basslines.
To speak of ambitious influences, the standout “Gold” seems to draw from Whitney in its irresistible chorus: “Oh, you make me feel like a million dollars.” High praise, perhaps, but it’s earned as layers of instrumentation build for an incredibly satisfying, potent, catchy number.
On more of the electronic side, “Lily’s Call” and “Glow” exhibit some excellent synth work. The former is a climactic slow burn, tense rising arpeggios, and harsh, electronic drums that recall the Drive soundtrack. The latter is a more thoughtful affair, its spare rhythm and open, warm chords well-suited to guest vocalist and collaborator Damon Albarn‘s unique voice.
There are some weak points in Slugs of Love. It does take a few tracks to get going, with the underwhelming openers “Amoban” and “Frisco” feeling like rather well-trodden territory for Little Dragon. The title song, “Slugs of Love”, is a little livelier, but despite the charming refrains of “ooh-wah” across the chorus, it just isn’t as interesting musically as what else is on offer.
“Tumbling Dice” and “Easy Falling” also feel a little indistinct. The former has a pleasing descending melody and uptempo drum beat but isn’t particularly memorable. Meanwhile, “Easy Falling” is a floaty, washed-out ending track that, while peaceful, isn’t an especially strong closer.
Slugs of Love is nonetheless a great return to form from Little Dragon. Further developing and exhibiting their production and musical chops across different genres, they sound fantastic on a slinky and assured album that does not neatly fit into one musical box.