MGMT, Little Dark Age | Album Review
Alternative duo MGMT, comprised of Andrew Vanwyngarden and Ben Goldwasser, returns with a thrilling new studio album, ‘Little Dark Age.’
Trippy alternative act MGMT has finally returned! After nearly a five-year hiatus, Andrew Vanwyngarden and Ben Goldwasser drops their fourth studio album, Little Dark Age. From the start, it’s clear Little Dark Age contrasts their 2013 self-titled effort, which didn’t receive the same buzz as the band’s debut, Oracular Spectacular (2007), or sophomore LP, Congratulations (2010).
“She Works Out Too Much”
“Don’t take it the wrong way / I can never keep up / Sick of liking your selfies / Should’ve gone with my gut.” Little Dark Age starts off with a bang on “She Works Out Too Much.” MGMT seems to speak on the fakeness, shallowness, and superficiality of some modern relationships. Musically, this record sounds like a mix of 80s exercise music, psychedelia, and synth-pop. “(He’s trying) / (She works out too much) / The only reason we never worked out was / He didn’t work out.”
Highlight “Little Dark Age” initiates with alluring, mysterious synths, which serve as the pre-cursor to a sick, infectious, alt-pop groove. The production is arguably, the best feature of the record. Even so, vocally, VanWyngarden quickly proves he hasn’t missed a beat, sounding as tuned-in as ever. Throughout “Little Dark Ages,” he compellingly delivers the ‘frightening,’ poetic lyrics. Adding to his effectiveness is the vocal production. While he doesn’t force things, VanWyngarden sounds more assertive compared to the past, which suits the lyrical content and theme.
“When You Die”
“Go f*ck yourself / You heard me right / Don’t call me nice again.” Safe to say, alternative duo MGMT ‘have an attitude’ on “When You Die”. “When You Die” is a terrific, compelling MGMT record. It’s energetic, particularly the vocals, well-written, and well-produced. From the jump, the record sounds mysterious – quirky and left of center. Vanwyngarden exhibits bite vocally, conveying the “mean” tilt of the lyrics.
“I’m not that nice / I’m mean and I’m evil / Don’t call me nice / I’m gonna eat your heart out / I’ve got some work to do / Baby, I’m ready, I’m ready, ready, ready to blow my lid off.”
Creepy. PSYCHO…logical. Suicidal… Disturbing. Anyways, the second verse gets more twisted. Later, on the third verse, curses and meanness continues, while the chorus sums up the darkness, with some incredibly disturbing humor.
“You die / And words won’t do anything / It’s permanently night / And I won’t feel anything We’ll all be laughing with you when you die.”
“Me and Michael / Solid as they come / Me and Michael / It’s not a question now.” “Me and Michael” is a song that seems to be ‘subject to interpretation.’ According to the band, it’s meant to be “ambiguous.” Given the ambiguity, In some sense, it seems as if MGMT could be hinting at a ‘bromance’ or same-sex relationship or sorts. Even so, yet, the lyrics don’t fully commit. Therefore, this easy-going record is open.
“Find me when the lights go down / Signing in and signing out / Gods descend to take me home / Find me staring at my phone.” Sigh, Little Dark Age maintains consistency on “TSLAMP,” a record that focuses on phone addiction. The message, lyrics, and production are pitch-perfect. “Last thing that you need / Is the shiny feature / All the memories you’ve shared / Devoured by perverted creatures.”
The lower-register vocals stand out on “James,” making it a contrast to everything that precedes it. Lyrically, MGMT keeps things simple, but compelling as always. The consistency is fantastic. “Days That Got Away” is more mysterious, more experiment, and mostly instrumental. Only the repeated use of the titular lyric keeps it from totally owning the instrumental thing. While it’s not as powerful as the crème de la crème of Little Dark Age, Vanwyngarden and Goldwasser continue their alt-flex-fest.
“Hand It Over”
“One Thing Left to Try” gets back on the ‘lyrical good foot.’ MGMT sounds particularly exuberant, owning the 80s-inspired synth-pop sound. Incredibly groovy and up-tempo, the Little Dark Age is certainly triumphant. Contrasts arrives on the slower, more restrained penultimate record, “When You’re Small.” Despite the change of pace, there’s no letdown – the band feels totally locked in. Furthermore, the simplicity of the chorus is quite beautiful. Still, “When You’re Small” gets trumped by the crème de la crème that follows.
“The smart ones exit early / And the rest hope for a shoulder.” “Hand it Over”, tchecks off all boxes in regards to being a ‘MGMT record.’ Vanwyngarden delivers chill, easy-going vocals. Even with such a laid-back approach, he still packs a punch with his beautiful tone, and casually sneaking in an f-bomb.
“The deals we made to shake things up / And the rights that they abused / Might just f*ck us over / But the doors won’t shut.”
Accentuating his own accomplished performance, not to mention the beauty of the record as a whole, are choral backing vocals, responding spiritedly with the titular lyric. This occurs during the chorus sections, which appear back to back at the end of the song.
“This time (Hand it over) / It’s yours and it’s mine (Hand it over) / One thing on my mind (Hand it over) / It’s rightfully mine (Hand it over).”
Beyond the epic choruses, the songwriting is thoughtful by all means. Musically, the harmonic progression incorporates some clever twists and turns. The production fits the mold of duo with its lushness and psychedelic cues delivered primarily through the synths. Superb closer.
All in all, MGMT delivers one of the best albums of 2018 with Little Dark Age. Consistent from start to finish, Vanwyngarden and Goldwasser never miss the mark. Great vocals, production, and songwriting over the course of a tight, ten-track affair.
Gems: “Little Dark Age,” “When You Die,” Me and Michael,” “TSLAMP” & “Hand It Over”
MGMT • Little Dark Age • Columbia • Release: 2.9.18
Photo Credit: Columbia