Not Kids Anymore, MGMT Returns

MGMT's new album, Little Dark Age, is out now.

Sweethearts of 2006 to 2009, MGMT has returned after a slow period with Little Dark Age. The band is known for their albums “Oracular Spectacular” and “Congratulations” with multiple hit singles. After 2012, the band was riddled by mediocre and bad reviews, causing them to go a little quiet for a while. In a Rolling Stone interview from January, MGMT said they were excited to be working towards bare bones basic songwriting with no lack of influence worship. They succeeded in both categories, taking the route of 80s nostalgia, writing poppy and catchy songs that are synth and drum machine-heavy.

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This formula has been emulated often lately, namely by acts like Ariel Pink and Blood Orange. MGMT and Blood Orange share a producer on this album, Patrick Wimberly, and his influence is hard to miss. The problem with this formula is that, while it produces catchy, simple songs with good melodies, it puts the artists that decide to employ this era and sound into a pigeonhole of the 80s revivalist. Producing this sound and putting the band on the crutches of nostalgia takes the focus away from the songwriting because it does not come off as original. It comes off as emulation.

However, MGMT spares themselves (a little bit) from this cliché just because of how good they are at writing these songs. Right out the gate, “She Works Out Too Much” hits hard with a wild bass line and drum groove backed with big synth chords and a dreamy chorus with help from a computer girl voice. This track has big Madonna vibes, but is followed by a dark and broody verse at the beginning of the next and title track, “Little Dark Age.” “Little Dark Age” is catchy with a stutter synth over the chorus before heading right back into that dark verse. The band pulls off both styles well, and they emulate more styles going down the track list.

At ten songs, this may seem like a short project, but through the years, MGMT has kept to a standard of nine or ten songs per project, which is considerably shorter than most artists’ albums. They may be trying to go for all killer no filler, which they almost succeeded at if not for “Me and Michael” and “One Thing Left To Try,” which proved to be easily forgotten after a few listen. “One Thing Left To Try” is exhausting in just how 80s it is, and “Me and Michael” falls short to the rest of the songs in the tracklist. “TSLAMP,” standing for “Time Spent Looking at My Phone,” gives major The Police vibes, with great drums and bass lines sounding like they are echoing through the desert and a great guitar solo.

VERDICT: “Little Dark Age” has the power to give MGMT a boost among lovers of catchy, breathy 80s worship, with solid songwriting and respect and emulation of 80s powerhouses. Not many risks were taken on this album, but the songs will be stuck in listeners heads and are definitely worth more than one listen.

GRADE: B

Best Tracks: “James,” “TSLAMP,” “Days that Got Away”

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