‘Little Dark Age’ balances signature style with innovation

MGMT’s fourth album provides a nostalgic yet exciting listening experience

ae-littledarkage-courtesywikimediacommons

MGMT's fourth album is a welcome return to form, featuring the classic sounds that originally made the band famous.

Courtesy Wikimedia Commons

Loyal fans will appreciate MGMT’s re-discovery of self in their latest album, “Little Dark Age”. Ben Goldwasser and Andrew VanWyngarden successfully fused their signature psychedelic pop style with innovative sounds and lyrics. 

On their fourth album, MGMT kept their style more similar to that of their 2007 debut album, “Oracular Spectacular,” even repartnering with the producer of their first album, David Fridmann, to create “Little Dark Age.” MGMT kept their style similar to that of their early 2000s music, and most of the tracks have a 60s electronic sound, evocative of some of the duo’s most popular songs, such as “Kids” and “Electric Feel.” 

After their second and third albums received mixed reviews and critique for being too quirky and experimental, MGMT truly went back to their musical roots. Fans who thought that the genius behind “Oracular Spectacular” was lost will have a nostalgic experience listening to this new album.

Goldwasser and VanWyngarden formed MGMT in 2002 during their freshman year at Wesleyan University in Middletown, Conn. Their first EP, “Time to Pretend,” came out following their graduation in 2005. Produced by little-known record label Cantora Records, the EP only featured six tracks, but these six included two of their most popular songs — “Kids” and “Time to Pretend.” 

In 2007, MGMT partnered with Fridmann to release their debut album “Oracular Spectacular.” MGMT sold over 500,000 copies of this album in the U.S., and it went platinum in Australia, the U.K. and Ireland. Hit tracks off this album like “Electric Feel” helped build a strong MGMT fan base and popularized the duo’s unique pop-electro style. 

MGMT’s early material is their most popular material. Though fans appreciate them for their quirky sound, their second and third albums strayed too far from their signature style. 

“Little Dark Age” re-proves MGMT’s abilities and unique artistry. The track “Hand it Over” has a chill sound reminiscent of a Beach Boys song and MGMT’s own signature 60s-electronic-pop-fusion dynamic genre. 

Though being overly experimental in their second and third album did not work in their favor, there are also tracks off of “Little Dark Age” that show MGMT is still unafraid of musical innovation. Many of the songs on the new album are 80s-pop inspired. “Me and Michael” includes upbeat keyboard sounds similar to those of a song featured in a John Hughes film. The title track is an edgier song, with a considerably more punky-pop sound but has a catchy chorus that makes the sound more accessible to listeners. Most of the tracks are very synth-driven, creating a cool and distinct sound theme. 

One other unique feature of the new album is how it doubles as a critique of society, particularly in regards to the obsession with social media. The track “She Works Out Too Much” is about a guy and a girl who are obsessed with hitting the gym and taking selfies there. Underlying the lyrics of this song is the idea that people are motivated to do things for the sole purpose of being able to broadcast their activities to others via social media. 

Another track, “TSLAMP,” is titled an acronym for “time spent looking at my phone.” The duo sings, “All the memories you’ve shared, developed by perverted creatures” to critique how people are so easily lured into the carefully curated, debatably superficial and sometimes toxic online world. Both tracks continue to maintain MGMT’s signature funky sound, allowing for their meaningful lyrics to make “Little Dark Age” even more relevant to listeners. 

“Little Dark Age” does a perfect job maintaining MGMT’s traditional electronic pop sound while also making innovations within their genre and the messages of their music. Goldwasser and VanWyngarden successfully re-cultivated the sound that made listeners fall in love with MGMT, while also keeping the album fresh and innovative.

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