Lest you believe Little Dragon lack an aesthetic spine, their shift away from low-key left-field hip-hop, plaintive piano ballads, and acoustic jazz - a combination that helped make their debut a cult classic - seems more natural after a couple spins. There's no way around the fact that most of Machine Dreams is icy electro-pop, but it is not as if the truly singular Yukimi Nagano, an enamoring vocalist, has switched to drone mode, forsaking her grounding in R&B. She has kind of perked up, in fact, with her hooks carrying more lift to suit her band's rubbery rhythms and liquid synthesizer patterns. Just as "Twice" was the standout on Little Dragon, the songs here that resonate most, however - the opening "A New," "Thunder Love," and the closing "Fortune" - are this Swedish group's version of (electric) quiet storm, deceptively intense and even sensual. Now Instock! Peacefrog Records through Fat Beats distribution.
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