Album review: Little Dark Age by MGMT

A diamond with rough edges

MGMT aren’t trying to return to their biggest commercial successes - but neither are they suppressing their talents.

Little Dark Age is a way for them to discuss their fears and anxieties while indulging in nostalgia.

After a break of four years, the return of MGMT teases a promising year for music. It’s only February, but a heated debate over the album of the year could already start.

With Little Dark Age you can do no less than “eat (y)our heart out“, even if you only remember MGMT from their biggest triple - Kids, Time To Pretend and Electric Feel. Yet, these are the songs the band wants to forget the most; their primary interest is in experimentation.

Andrew Van Wyngarden and Ben Goldwasser offer a radio-friendlier cut with Little Dark Age compared to its predecessors.

Perhaps the most accessible song of the record, Me & Michael, is in fact a song without any message, born out of “love of European synth-pop” and resentment towards the music industry.

The Guardian dubbed MGMT as synth-pop pranksters – believing it’s time they finally got serious. Yet, there’s undoubtedly much more to come.

Aside from stabs at the music industry, the current American political landscape is another influence. The reality of living in the times of Trump’s America is odd, to say the least.

Van Wyngarden even went as far to call the election process a feeling of “identity loss”. This uncertainty, with a sprinkle of nihilism, is underlining the entire run-time of the LP.

On one side, we have VanWyngarden’s slightly deadpan singing voice. Even on lines like “I don’t wanna die”, it’s uncertain whether this is a genuine cry or not.

It all gives Little Dark Age another layer of charm; feeling uncomfortable with what’s happening in the present and certain of only one thing in the future.

Death and dying are at the centre of the LP. That ranges from a suicide-note-esque When You Die to the hopeful One Last Thing To Try.

The 80s synths have taken front and centre of the Little Dark Age stage. The love for psychedelic rock sounds genuine.

The only rawer, acoustic cut is When You’re Small – a nostalgic ballad with that certain Pink Floyd-sounding attitude. Is it about their successes with the big hits from Oracular Spectacular or a song about childhood? Debatable.

The choices made during track listing are an oddity. They seemingly prevent the flow and make it seem to be all over the place. However, this is what makes it so replayable, as the next song might come up as a surprise.

Whether MGMT are returning to indie-pop hits or not, this release is bringing them back on the track of making new fans again, rather than consequently losing some of the casual ones.

MGMT‘s bitterness over the initial success seems not to be digested yet, but their song-making-craft remains one of the band's strongest assets.

  • 8.4
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