Little Dark Age
Their best since Oracular Spectacular, but I’ve never been a huge fan of MGMT anyways. Nevertheless, this is a necessary reinvention for Andrew VanWyngarden and Ben Goldwasser—indie kids no longer, it’s about time they got nostalgic with their synthpop.
This being MGMT, there will always be faux-psychedelia to color the edges, but the sound owes more to Daft Punk than The Flaming Lips. Yet once again, this being MGMT, the inescapable influences of the Lips and Merriweather-era Animal Collective are unshakeable.
The melodies—some straightforward, some slightly off-kilter—have nothing to hide. For the first time since their debut, the obnoxiously sunny aura pulls no punches. It is honest and welcoming. Guitars and sound effects are pushed to the background so 808s and analog keys can shine forth. It’s a spot where many a mid-2000s indie band ends up nowadays.
The lyrics are why I have always been hesitant of this group, and they fail me once again. “She Works Out Too Much” contains self-deprecating millennial verses that Boomers should be proud of, but we’d be better off with a song about exercise instead of one that makes cheap metaphors out of smartphones, selfies and social media. Love that hook, though: “The only reason it didn’t work out was he didn’t work out.”
MGMT have never crafted strong characters either. “Me and Michael” could be hetero- or homo-, but I’m not invested enough to care. And unless they slipped one by me and “James” is actually about a cat, hollow gestures fill Little Dark Age.
At the album’s best, we get a sound on par with good Panda Bear. At its worst, MGMT are as obnoxiously indie as they’ve ever been. Even with this considered, Little Dark Age just might be their best work overall.