There's not a whole lot of overwhelming new releases set for July, but there is certainly a strong core of solid albums set to be released throughout the month. It's quality over quantity, and Swedish electronic/synth-pop quartet Little Dragon are helping beef up the quality aspect with their latest album, Ritual Union. Set for release July 26, Ritual Union is the third album from Little Dragon, a band with perhaps one of the most intriguing singers out there -- Yukimi Nagano -- whom you may recognize from her guest-vocal duties on the Gorillaz's "Empire Ants" SBTRKT's "Wildfire."
|Stream Ritual Union in its entirety|If either of those songs tickles your fancy, then you'll be happy to know Nagano sings on all eleven songs featured on Ritual Union -- an album that NPR music has given their exclusive first listen treatment, streaming it in its entirety for you to enjoy before it is released next week.
Ritual Union finds Little Dragon evolving quite a bit from the lucid, free-flowing feel of their last album, 2009's Machine Dreams. While Machine Dreams featured more open, orchestrated melodies, Ritual Union finds the band exploring the more decidedly electronic side of their sound -- and with fantastic results, I might add. Lead single "Ritual Union" spends its three and a half minutes in a funky synth-pop holding pattern -- it's a catchy song, but repeated listens render its structure rather baffling. The song doesn't seem to go anywhere, but it's shortcomings are outweighed by Nagano's transcendent vocals. Other offerings such as "Please Turn," "Crystalfilm" and "Nightlight" find a darker, more electronic tone -- a perfect counterbalance the standout tracks from Machine Dreams.
Little Dragon could, for all intents and purposes, hitch their collective wagons to the strength of Yukimi Nagano's singing style -- she is just that good. They don't, however, resulting in the band making a marked effort to truly evolve their sound. The beneficiaries of all this hard work? That would be us listeners, of course.
1. Ritual Union
2. Little Man
3. Brush the Heat
4. Shuffle a Dream
5. Please Turn
10. When I Go Out