A legendary synth pop group is back after a five-year grace period of touring, remixing and reflecting.
Andrew VanWyngarden and Ben Goldwasser formed MGMT in 2002, and in 2006 they produced their highly praised and hugely radio friendly record “Oracular Spectacular,” which has famous singles and was an overall pretty good first studio album.
However, the group wasn’t meant for this friendly sound, and their next two records, “Congratulations” in 2010 and “MGMT” in 2013, explored much more experimentation, growth and distance.
But, hopefully you know who MGMT is, so let’s talk about this long-awaited record, “Little Dark Age.”
The group is bringing back more of their signature psychedelic synth grooves, odd lyrical content, old school production style and unique character for song writing.
This album has a good deal going for it, especially on songs like “Little Dark Age,” “When You Die,” and “Hand Over,” which are filled with eerie and haunting, yet elastic and bouncy synth melodies and odd guitar grooves.
Also, the lyrics tackle all sorts of issues, including dating, culture, death and sexuality.
But this record isn’t all sunshine and rainbows.
In other words, it has a tough time staying consistent.
A lot of its tracks follow a groovy and haunting vibe.
Yet there are songs like “She Works Out Too Much,” “Me and Michael” and “One Thing Left to Try” that feel so out of place.
These tracks are much more upbeat and sound like the perfect soundtrack for an ‘80s sitcom, like “Cheers” or “Full House,” unlike the very moody and dark synths on the record’s other tracks.
Let me give you the perfect example of why this inconsistency really digs into my skin and what really leads this album downhill.
The difference in sound from track No. 2, “Little Dark Age,” to track No. 3, “When you Die,” is night and day.
“Little Dark Age” again is unsettling and haunting with the way the synth drones on in the background and how the bouncy sound sample flutters with the very re-verbed bass.
Then you have “When you Die,” which is a very bouncy and sunny track with groovy guitar leads, jazz-style drums and colorful synth.
But the lyrics are almost something out of a metal song with the very edgy content.
With all that said, I still enjoy this project from MGMT.
I hope they re-think their procedure next time and flush out more of these sounds.
I love the aesthetic and the feel of this record, but I don’t like the jumpy-ness of it.
They need to pick one of these two sounds and run with it, but I hope it’s the more eerie sound.
Happy listening, Gannon University!
• Genre: synth pop, psychedelic pop/rock, jangle pop, synth punk/gothic pop, hypnagogic pop
• Rating: mid-high 6/10
• Favorite Track: “When You Die”
• Least Favorite Track: “Me and Michael” or “One Thing Left to Try”