It still strikes me as odd that there are plenty of “MGMT fans” out there that are totally unaware of the fact that the album Congratulations exists. Whether it be that they’re naive, are ignoring the fact that the band came out with songs that aren’t “Kids”, or just stopped listening to music in 2009, the follow-up to Oracular Spectacular has been consistently hailed as the group’s lesser-known, weirder, and even less-liked successor. The most exciting part about album number three, the self-titled MGMT, is that it boldly shows that the band doesn’t care about the negative press at all. They’ve even gone as far as striking Oracular tracks like “Kids” from their live set to make room for the album that frontman Andrew VanWyngarden has referred to simply as (I’m paraphrasing here) music that the band actually likes. What that means isn’t up to me to decide, but what I can decide is how I try to make you feel about this album. As always, my attempts to be unbiased will quickly implode and you will totally see through my “reporting” right into my opinion. SO HERE WE GO.
For fans that have been waiting for this album for three years, the opening to “Alien Days” is like a very exciting prologue. A slow-building key part, VanWyngarden’s pitch-bent vocals that eventually morph into his identifiable sound, and lengthy additions of percussion eventually burst into the trancey, “Metanoia”-like track. The song, which was also the album’s first single, is the perfect medium between weirdness and consonance until it, in wonderful MGMT fashion, abruptly falls apart at the end before fading out. The second song is “Cool Song No. 2”, a tribal and deep-sounding track that has an almost Animal Collective-like element. Full of ambient noises and sound effects, this one surely does prove to be a new sound for the band. “Mystery Disease” is extraordinarily jammy, which is a direction the band was very vocal about pursuing. Perfect for some on-stage improvisation, this track has the same feel that radiates throughout the rest of MGMT. Up next is a cover of Faine Jade’s “Introspection”, which ends up being one of the most attractive songs on the album. After this the album explodes into single “Your Life Is A Lie”, which is both purely MGMT and strangely goofy. This song was the spark of my personal excitement for the album, bringing a rarely-seen sense of power from the psychedelic duo.
“A Good Sadness” is the next track, providing another track that is trancey and jammy, with VanWyngarden’s vocals being soaked in reverb and pushed towards the back. This song seems to take a lot of influence from MGMT’s fellow experimental bands in today’s indie scene, and it works out to their advantage. That flows into “Astro-Mancy”, which is a very percussion-driven song. It’s also another one on the album that is heavily layered with sound effects and ambient noises. “I Love You Too, Death” is a very unique track, with VanWyngarden’s vocals being performed in a way that makes this sound like a Yo La Tengo song, and it is definitely one of the highlights of this album. MGMT then closes with “Plenty Of Girls In The Sea”, which is led by a ripping and echoing drum beat with an acoustic guitar underneath almost swing-style vocals, and “An Orphan Of Fortune”, which has a drone-style rock feel that is totally unexpected, yet it leaves you very excited for the future of MGMT.
These guys have been given a lot of flack over the years for not continuing to make chart-dominating pop hits. They’re a really strange situation where they had a chance to become a musical super power, but chose to instead make the music they want to make. That is nothing short of commendable. For an album that’s been called “confusing” (along with being put in the flat-out rude “Worst New Music” section in Spin) MGMT seems to be the exact opposite of that. The duo is focused on having fun and enjoying themselves, which is always the most important thing. And if that isn’t worth it to you, then at least this is a solid album anyways. MGMT gets a 90/100 and is available now.
- Alien Days
- Cool Song No. 2
- Mystery Disease
- Your Life Is A Lie
- A Good Sadness
- I Love You Too, Death
- Plenty Of Girls In The Sea
- An Orphan Of Fortune