MGMT Defies Pop with Little Dark Age

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- By Gabe Straight -

What makes MGMT, the veteran electro pop project, so interesting to many listeners? It is their complete disregard for making popular music. Rivaling the musical determination of a 1960s Brian Wilson, the band has always been known for going in whatever creative direction they deem worthy; similar to their massive debut 2007 release Oracular Spectacular. That album got the band on everyone’s radar.

Without exception, MGMT’s latest release Little Dark Age holds nothing back. It boldly showcases the many tricks the band has left up their sleeve. This album is fun, a little funky, and a little sinister. It features some of the most interesting and unique music to come out of 2018 so far.

It doesn’t take an experienced ear to figure out what the band was going for on Little Dark Age: this album is weird, but weird in all the best ways. From the first few bars of the opening track “She Works Out Too Much,” MGMT brings in a flurry of tonally unbalanced synths, tight drum production, and jagged bass lines.

Every decision on Little Dark Age almost sounds like MGMT is trying to make anti pop-music.

The tones and sounds are straight out of an 80s fever dream. But, they are arranged in a way that gives off an uneasy, disfigured vibe. (Think Macintosh Plus’ signature vapor wave release Floral Shoppe). The track “James” features a deep and creepy vocal track that works off of the uplifting words “If you need a friend… the door is always open.”

Speaking of lyrics,

Little Dark Age features lines that clearly took some thought. Moments like  “TSLAMP” (an abbreviation for ‘time spent looking at my phone’), and the line “turn you off but can’t detach” are great ear-catchers. The title track appropriately summarizes the whole premise of the album - the band pens an ode to depression. This is given in the title of “Little Dark Age.” It combines a 'fun and light' with 'devastating and heavy.' This is the direction the album takes. But, there's a detour right before the end with “When You’re Small,” featuring somber piano chords and guitar accents. It keeps a swelling synth that helps the song stray from sounding too different from the rest of Little Dark Age. The other ballad, “Hand it Over,” features the same artistic direction. And just like that, the album is over.

The little critiques that could go with Little Dark Age

is far from compromising the enjoyment. A couple instrumentals draw out just a hair too long. However, it changes direction before the section completely overstays its welcome.

MGMT, despite clocking in a decade of music, has the drive and purpose of a band just starting out. Little Dark Age is full of purpose and desire meshed with a joyful darkness. God only knows where the band goes from here.

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