We have been waiting for this for a very, very long time… 5 years in fact. This was the last time MGMT had released new music with their self titled third album. Just over ten years since the release of their era defining debut album ‘Oracular Spectacular’, MGMT continue their diverse progression in sound, further distancing themselves from their past. But this time, thyme circled back and delved into the depths of pops sound… and they may have released one of the albums of the decade.
A bold statement I know. But ‘Little Dark Age’ truly is that. The band have resurfaced from their “little dark age”, and have returned with a glamorous, dark, synth pop record which from the first listen blew me away.
The moment we were given new material from the band, we knew that their new direction would be their most interesting to date. The first single, ‘Little Dark Age’ offered a taster of the dark and melodic pop that was on offer from the band. It’s an easy listen, catchy chorus. It’s swelling underlying synths that flutter through the track, and not to mention the flange like bass which lurks through the verses of the song, all point towards that darker feel to their sound, yet still keeping to their pop roots.
Opening the album, ‘She Works Out Too Much’ is a more upbeat track, with MGMT’s lead vocalist Andrew VanWyndgarden introducing us to the album with “Welcome to the shit show” and some possible fitness video voice overs which are layered throughout. ‘When You Die’, is a huge contrast. It’s possibly one of the most clever, and witty tracks they have released. The track is upbeat, and appears jolly. Yet the tracks title ‘When You Die’, and the chorus of “Go fuck yourself, you heard me right… I’m ready to blow my brains out… and die”. It’s almost a comedic song, with its very sinister and crude undertones, yet the tracks melodic, upbeat and cheery on approach. Along with the track, the ban also released a pretty surreal music video about, well death.
‘TSLAMP’ is a direct shot at kids these days who are ‘always looking at your phone’. The funky bass and jangly hand percussions create a more psych pop feel to the song. The added electronic ticks and clicks again show their experimentations with sound. ‘James’ has Andrew crooning over a xylophone, with the instrumentation of percussion, synths and a trumpet coated in reverb, create a truly lovely sounding track. This album is a very easy listen, and its incredible production, and its fluttering sounds can be highly recognisable on this track.
‘Days That Got Away’ is a trippy exploration into their new dark synth pop style. The vocal pitches, and effects that meander through the track give a sense of gliding. The added highly automated samples further digest the colourful use of sounds that are so ever present though this record. MGMT are able to turn sampled vocals and exploit their sounds into different pitches, which in return create a sound resembling to an instrument. They take advantage of these vocals and turn them into glorious sounds which show their progressive and experimental sides.
‘One Thing Left To Try’ has elements of an LCD Soundystem infused psych song. With its vibe of percussions, and the songs upbeat tempo, musically the song could pass as and LCD track, with that MGMT twist. ‘When You’re Small’ is the shortest song on the record, clocking in at three minutes and thirty seconds, yet is also the most smooth and calm. A flanged guitar lurks in between verses and chorus, as well has some haunting strings and acoustic guitar. ‘When You’re Small’ compiles some sad undertones, on arguably the saddest song on the record.
‘Me and Michael’ and ‘Hand It Over’ are quite possibly two of the best songs the band have written. Ever. ‘Me and Michael’ is an explosion in synth pop. An easy listen, fun lyrics and melody, and a song that could easily be lodged into the hearts of all fans of MGMT, and even fans of 70’s and 80’s pop music. It’s a feel good anthem, which will no doubt be a highlight of their live sets. ‘Hand It Over’ is a song that I haven’t been able to stop listening to. The stunning final track on the record, see’s the band deliver gorgeous harmonies, with a drum let, soft and touching track that stands out as one of the songs of the year in my eyes. The smooth and relaxing compositions of the song add to the calmness of the mood that it sets, emulating harmony. It is a complete contrast to tracks such as ‘When You Die’, but MGMT have written perfect songs, in a perfect manor that fit… perfectly!
MGMT have been living to sway away from the three notorious singles that achieved them fame. ‘Kids’, ‘Electric Feel’ and ‘Time to Pretend’ will always be the bands most popular tracks, and with this return to a more poppy sound, the band have still stayed clear of writing anything remotely similar. The trio of songs still define the band, yet their branch out into this new style of dark synth pop has ultimatly seen the band at their creative best.
This album, is by far one of the best that will come out this year, so do yourself a favour and wrap your ears around it, and soak it all in.
Words by Piran Aston (Twitter – @PiranAston_)
Id like to say thank you to Youtube music channel, ‘Middle 8’, who gave me a huge insight into the story of MGMT in his recent video about the band and this release. He has some superb material that is professional, and to an extremely high standard and I highly recommend checking it out below.
featured image courtesy of Jambass and Brad Elterman