After a four-year hiatus the psychedelic duo MGMT is back with their fourth studio album. Does Little Dark Age bring a fresh sound reminiscent to the songs MGMT is best known for? Or does it fall into obscurity like their last self-titled album?
In a video essay by Middle 8, founding members of MGMT Andrew VanWyngarden and Ben Goldwasser thought it would be funny to make the poppiest songs to “sell out as quickly as possible” resulting in MGMT’s first EP Time to Pretend (2007). The EP drew the attention of Columbia Records who signed the duo to create Oracular Spectacular. There’s no doubt you recognize “Time to Pretend,” “Kids,” and “Electric Feel” as they now serve as the basis for indie-pop.
Oracular Spectacular is a great album for that friend who’s cool but for some reason keeps jamming the top 50 hits on Spotify. Slip this album under their door, it’s a great primer. MGMT’s second album, Congratulations isn’t as accessible in terms of isolated tracks, it’s meant to be listened to from start to finish, much more polished, and their 12-minute track “Siberian Breaks” is the duo’s greatest work. In 2013 MGMT took their sound in a completely different direction in their self-titled album, resulting in few people listening and those who listened to MGMT appreciated the charm of the experimental tracks, but still not impressed when stacking the album up with previous work. Little Dark Age gives you the accessibility of Oracular Spectacular, the polish of Congratulations, and the experimental charm of MGMT.
The album starts out with “She Works Out Too Much,” sampling an 80’s workout video saying “Get ready to have some fun” which sums up the album, from start to finish every track delivers something unique for MGMT’s new sound. Tracks like “Little Dark Age,” “Me and Michael,” and “One Thing Left to Try” follow a similar 80’s synthy psychedelic sound. What sets these tracks apart from 99% of the music in this genre is the production quality, producer Dave Fridmann ensured Andrew’s dynamic vocals flow with the polished vintage sound. “When You Die” has Andrew’s trademark voice that can only be described as “silent yelling.” “One Thing Left To Try” has Andrew singing in a much higher voice while “James” has his voice drop so low you can easily mistake it for Ariel Pink. It’s not just vocals that Andrew does well, his lyrics on “TSLAMP” comments on our generation’s screen addiction.
“I’m wondering where the hours went
As I’m losing consciousness
My sullen face is all aglow
Time spent looking at my phone”
While I think the whole album is worth it, my favorite tracks that deserve high rotation (in order of super best to best) are “When You Die,” “Hand it Over,” “TSLAMP,” “James,” “Me and Michael,” “Little Dark Age,” and “She Works Out Too Much.”
Little Dark Age’s mix of radio-friendly hits and experimental tracks serve as a perfect balance for those wanting to jump into the band’s discography. If you’re coming to this album after knowing one of their three hits, you’ll find most of these tracks comfortable and highly enjoyable. For longtime fans, you’ll enjoy the change of sound that’s familiar with the songs that brought you to MGMT in the first place.
Dedicated to Bobby Jameson – Ariel Pink
Congratulations – MGMT
American Dream – LCD Soundsystem
Recommended If You Like: LCD Soundsystem, Ariel Pink
Recommended Tracks: 1 (She Works Out Too Much), 2 (Little Dark Age), 3 (When You Die), 4 (Me and Michael), 5 (TSLAMP), 6 (James), 10 (Hand It Over)
Do Not Play: 3 (When You Die), 10 (Hand It Over)
Written by Karsan Turner on 02/20/2018