MGMT – Little Dark Age
MGMT March 19, 2018
TJ – MGMT
On Friday, Feb. 9, the synth pop experimental duo known commonly as MGMT released their fourth studio album. Ironically enough, the album was named “Little Dark Age” and for those of you who don’t know, the duo went through a little dark age after the release of their self-titled album. The band went on a five-year hiatus with limited touring. Despite this dark age, I would say the album was worth the wait.
MGMT’s new album is full of everything you would expect from their previous work. Experimental and psychedelic melodies accompanied by soft vocals from the lead singer Andrew VanWyngarden. The bass lines remain deep, groovy, and rhythmic but add a haunting and dark presence to the album. Of course, an MGMT album would be nothing without their heavy synths and psychedelic pitches that erupt from their keyboards. Overall, the album keeps to their synth pop roots but adds a haunting and dark aesthetic.
A perfect example of a song that grasps the dark and haunting aesthetic is none other than the album’s self-titled track, “Little Dark Age”. Of course, being named after the album, this track embodies the direction the band was heading towards. The track kicks off with a gothic and murky bass line, which you can’t help but groove to. High frequency synths follow up this bass line to add a layer of eeriness to the track.
Another favorite of mine off this album would be the song titled “When You’re Small”. What makes this song stand out for me is the feeling of claustrophobia while listening. It feels as if you’re shrinking or falling into an endless abyss. The producers and the duo do an excellent job at making you feel this way. The slow acoustic guitar adds a sense of loneliness to the endless space which you are falling in. The vocals “when you’re small, you don’t have very far to fall. When you’re small, you feel like you belong,” gives evidence to this. The guitar riffs, especially the breakdown reminds me of the Pink Floyd album, “Wish You Were Here” with the lonesome lyrics and funky whamming of the guitar.
An interesting track on this album is “TSLAMP” which stands for “Time Looking at My Phone.” This song is scary accurate about how as a society we spend to much time on our phone. I feel the eerie instrumentals on the track give off an awkward presence, which I believe represents a metaphor. Think of the last time you were confined within a room of strangers. Maybe you were in a doctor waiting room or riding the bus to work. To avoid that awkward feeling of being next to random strangers, you take out your phone and glue yourself to social media or some other unproductive app. I believe the song represents that feeling.
The track titled “When You Die”, is very self-explanatory. The song is malicious, mean, and aggressive. VanWyngarden confesses by stating, “I’m not that nice, I’m mean and I’m evil. Don’t call me nice, I am going to eat your heart out.” Despite the vibe this track gives off, it remains catchy and enjoyable with a simple guitar riff and groovy bassline. Another one of my favorites off the album and what I feel fits the aesthetic of the album.
Shifting away from the music and to the album artwork, I believe it was a perfect fit for the gothic aesthetic. It reminds me of a night in Gotham City with the Batman sigil looming over the population. I suppose I feel this way because of their use of the two colors yellow and black in the artwork. The masquerade replicates the sprite known as “No-Face” from the animated movie “Spirited Away.”
Overall, I heavily enjoyed this album. I love the aesthetic and experimental sounds they use, it is different and really shows their artistic abilities as musicians. I love the deep and haunting bass lines that add a gothic foundation to every song off the album. The eerie synths and funky percussion help pull off the dark vibes consistently throughout the album. I would rate this album a solid 8 out of 10. The only reason I wouldn’t rate this album higher is because it isn’t an album everyone would enjoy. However, that is exactly what MGMT wanted to do after they clearly stated in multiple interviews that they no longer wanted to continue into the mainstream. For those of you who like something different and new, I highly recommend listening to this album.