It’s a funny phrase, "effortlessly cool." Think of any awe-inspiring artist, from Beyoncé to The Knife, and you’ll find that they’ve put a lifetime of work into looking, sounding and acting on point. No matter what the ’90s might have taught you, no one ever became cool by being a slacker.
Swedish four-piece Little Dragon are a prime example. For almost two decades, since vocalist Yukumi Nagano met her future bandmates at high school in Gothenburg, they’ve been working hard on their sensuous mixture of trip-hop, downbeat electronica and R&B. They’ve collaborated with everyone from Damon Albarn and Big Boi to Sbtrkt and DJ Shadow. They’ve released three albums that have made them, little by little, a force to be reckoned with. And now, with album number four, their time might have come at last.
Nabuma Rubberband is a consummate masterpiece: dramatic, relentlessly innovative, brilliantly understated, impeccably produced and often head-spinningly sexy. Huge, squelchy synth riffs and galloping crashes on "Klapp Klapp" give way to the skipping percussion and ice-cool vocals of "Underbart." The seductive "Only One" goes deeper and deeper, before turning into a full-on techno track and dissolving into static. Album closer "Let Go" is a proper banger-in-disguise, the sort that’d be a huge international hit if it wasn’t so intelligently produced. Effortlessly cool? No: This is what it sounds like when 18 years of hard work pay off spectacularly.