Little Dark Age // MGMT

Little Dark Age

MGMT

2018, Columbia Records

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The elusive American duo defy expectations yet again on their fourth outing.

In 2007, Andrew VanWyngarden and Ben Goldwasser were making shiny, effervescent pop-psychedelia for the masses, and with Little Dark Age, the pair have come full circle. While not quite ascending to the dizzying heights they achieved on Oracular Spectacular, the album straddles the line between glitzy, 80s-inspired synth-pop and a darker, more brooding sound, with mixed results.

Album opener She Works Out Too Much sets the tone for much of the album to come; contemporary internet vernacular is fused with a horrifically kitsch dance beat laced with home workout tape samples. The trite saxophone solo leaves a sour taste in the mouth of this listener. Despite this, the track provides some interesting commentary on the nature of interpersonal relationships in the 21st century and our image-obsessed milieu, a theme which is revisited somewhat on TSLAMP (Time Spent Looking At My Phone). While the subject matter feels slightly overbearing, the song is bolstered by a funk-ridden instrumental sprinkled with Daft Punk-esque vocoded vocals, making for one of the more enjoyable tracks on the album.

In fact, the first half of Little Dark Age is home to nearly all of the highlights; When You Die is angst-ridden frustration set to a melancholic, deceptive beat, and Me And Michael, the most unashamedly jaunty track here, is an irresistible ode to friendship with an anthemic sing-along chorus. The pair aren’t covering any particularly new ground on the track, but instead rely on the pseudo-nostalgia factor to achieve an undeniably lavish and captivating track. The title track has a chorus reminiscent of Comedown Machine-era Strokes, but is somewhat self-indulgent.

Unfortunately, the latter half of the record falls flat in comparison. The whimsical baritone of James continues where Me and Michael left off, but Days That Got Away is pure unadulterated filler, causing the album to stagnate. One Thing Left To Try is varnished with a glossy façade of pop pizzazz, but harbours little substance beneath the surface, and When You’re Small sounds initially like the duo have unwisely reimagined the Beatles’ Something, but soon gives way to a fine psychedelic ballad.

Hand It Over feels like an appropriate ending to Little Dark Age, all plush backing vocals and smooth instrumentation, but ultimately highlights the need for a wider range of sonic variation. The synth-pop sound that permeates the record is platitudinous as is, but MGMT repeatedly fail to bring anything new to the table to augment it. Despite its shortcomings, MGMT’s 4th album has flashes of pure pop brilliance that should have been capitalised on.

******

6/10

Blue Velvet (Contributing Editor)

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JANUARY 2018

phanuel > pat metheny

collage > jazz from hell

legacy > arx atrata

ohoho gedama > mahmoud ahmed

xeper > vader

satin a > hans dulfer

lola > stavros xarhakos

talk to her > mother’s children

falling in love with you > devon russell

die house > kristofer maddigan

herkes kendi gördüğüne doğru der > aytaç doğan

pledge your money > r. stevie moore

pahadron > the spike orchestra

misra shiva ranjani > tapan bhattacharya & shyamal nath

freeway fire > your old droog

bewitched, bothered & bewildered > andré previn

concerto 2 in b for piano & orchestra: angoisse, agitato > arthur de greef

a new light > funeral mist

teach me how to say goodbye > maggie björklund

meenutus > mati kuulberg

so long > russ morgan

the story of a starry night > hugo montenegro

DECEMBER 2017

wild is the wind > nina simone

my pal foot foot > the shaggs

carnal malefactor > deathspell omega

roc marciano riff suite 1 > scallops hotel

waltz of regret > heroin & your veins

song for my lady > mccoy tyner

as icicles fall > ne obliviscaris

繙く風 > 青葉市子

laz barr > chookasian armenian concert ensemble

meteorite showers > estradasphere

39 by design > drab majesty

piano sonata, op. 40: ii. scherzo. chorale. scherzo > easley blackwood

anh sai rồi > cao thái sơn

lizard eyes > last exit

stimulating night > lindsheaven virtual plaza

symphony no. 1 in f minor, op.10: iii. lento > dmitri shostakovich

romance de juan osuna: romance gitano > manolo caracol

what happened? > ulver

boo be boo bee bee > andrew d’angelo

returner > liturgy

trane in mind > kahil el’zabar’s ritual trio

romance for a choking man/woman > marie goyette & mike patton

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NOVEMBER 2017

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shalmiel > jamie saft trio

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milkweed / it  hangs heavy > pharmakon

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body memory > björk

her hollow ways > danger mouse & daniele luppi

goetia > lustmord

lost verses > sun kil moon

i wouldn’t if you didn’t > the dillinger escape plan

hold on magnolia > magnolia electric co.

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in defense of resentment > street sects

el jorn dels miserables > lluís llach

clairvoyant > white suns

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lost a piece > world’s end girlfriend

lover, you should’ve come over > jeff buckley

OCTOBER 2017

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les portes du nil > renaud garcia-fons

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terra lontana > nino rota

hall hears the blues > tubby hayes

oh no > commodores

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ruled by secrecy > muse

simply beautiful > fantômas

mind power > james brown

did you see the sea > a.p.a.t.t.

someone > elysian fields

surrender > suicide

SEPTEMBER 2017

navel of the earth > jimsaku

dual overhead cam > starflyer 59

happy camper > strapping young lad

chandeliers > elysian fields

anna > k.u.k.l.

in the rain > keith hudson

x > subterranean masquerade

the coils of sevekh > nightbringer

theme from retro > blur

seen through skarz > antaeus

pop 1 > tomahawk

teach the babies (muneshine remix) > MF DOOM

the signs in the stars > current 93

jotunheim > moonsorrow

ballad of a thin man > jamie saft trio

washington bullets > the clash

black dunes > this will destroy you

friends part ii > ennio morricone

skótoseme > diamanda galás & john paul jones

walt > 菅野よう子

anthem for no state, pt. 1 > godspeed you! black emperor

stars > cornell campbell

anger management > lovage

AUGUST 2017

sweat loaf > butthole surfers

o pavelitel’ sushcheva fsevo > alfred schnittke

bless yourself bleed > world’s end girlfriend

behemoth (perturbator remix) > gost

in the twilight of kali yuga > master musicians of bukkake

gag reflex > dead cross

nocturne in eb major: molto moderato > john field

maniqui bordello > descartes a kant

durstiges tier > einstürzende neubauten

i hadn’t anyone till you > thelonious monk

moonbeams > the for carnation

générique > miles davis

ostia – the death of pasolini > coil

krakatau > yngwie malmsteen

the driller > wolf eyes

ljós í stormi > sólstafir

go in a good way to a better place > eyvind kang

nunc dimittis > arvo pärt

predestination blues > grails

all we got is uz > musette