There are many subgenres of pop. MGMT go down the synth-pop route time and time again, but that doesn’t make them unoriginal; nor does it make them boring, because their latest album is fantastic from start to finish. Andrew VanWyngarden and Benjamin Goldwasser have stuck out all hardships thus far, and I’m so glad they did. Little Dark Age is deliciously pop, surprisingly morbid, rambunctious, clever, and, of course, psychedelic.
MGMT’s new record is 10 tracks, each of which follow their own path of storylines. The opening song alone is about a relationship that’s about to go downhill because the woman is much more physically active than the man. “She Works Out Too Much” is the title and it perfectly captures the whole song. The uber-catchy chorus sings “The only reason we never worked out was he didn’t work out,” followed by a subtle background voice piping up to sing “He’s trying!” It’s an interesting song topic that could possibly be a clever way of describing a much more common relationship issue: the partners just didn’t have any similar interests to help keep their relationship afloat. Although that is only an idea, the song is still catchy, with a heavy bass that help to keep the dance music feeling of it alive.
I must admit, though, that “Me and Michael” might be my favorite song on this record due to its overall storyline about friendship, but also because of its extremely synth heavy, yet drum dominated beat. You can’t help but notice how the glimmering guitar works hand in hand with the cool vocals that encapsulate the story. The song feels like a narrative; mostly due to the lyrics, which are simple, smooth, and sound quite a bit conversational.
For me, I found that the darker aspects begin towards the latter end of the album. The last two tracks, specifically, garner a sense of being adrift, being lost in yourself, society, the world. “When You’re Small,” goes further than physical size, as it can be clearly interpreted as emotional size due to insecurities and fears. Its instrumental section is flawless and catchy, still holding the depth that the harmonies do, but straying more towards the power of groovy, slowed down musical stylings sans lyrics. Similarly, the concluding song, “Hand It Over” is just as intriguing to listen to, but its meaning is more unclear. It’s cold and melancholy, vocally strong, and withholds the album’s instrumental and lyrical strengths.
Little Dark Age is considerably haunting, albeit it is more wholesome than their last two albums seem to be. It’s the most authentically MGMT album since their debut. I do not mean that in the sense that they are replicating their earlier sound or regressing back due to an extreme case of nostalgia. I mean that in the sense that they seem at peace with this sound they’ve created. It has been almost five years since their last studio album, so it can be understood that they honed in on what they wanted people to get out of their music and created it just like that. They stayed true to their sound and their art, but still branched out far enough that fans both new and old could appreciate their new music with a vintage aesthetic.