The Lowdown: A decade after their debut album, neo-psychedelic wunderkinds MGMT are back to reclaim their narrative. Little Dark Age is their first album in five years, and it follows two critically panned releases: 2010’s Congratulations and 2013’s MGMT, both of which veered so far into zany art-rock experimentation that it was hard for everyone but their core fanbase to keep up. Little Dark Age hews closer to traditional pop structures, making it their most accessible record since Oracular Spectacular.
The Good: A couple odes to platonic friendship, written with pitch-perfect melodies, make Little Dark Age a worthwhile listen. There’s also the spirited “One Thing Left to Try”, which counters a death wish with huge, eruptive instrumentals and some good advice for waiting out depression’s icy grip. When MGMT actually give themselves room to be sincere, they offer up some of their best songs in years.
The Bad: The two songs about smartphones, “She Works Out Too Much” and “TSLAMP”, are more channels for complaining than they are nuanced looks at the way we integrate technology into our lives. “She Works Out Too Much” also includes fake exercise video samples for whatever reason. Ariel Pink pops up with a co-writing credit on “When You Die”, but even he can’t shake MGMT from their nervous sarcasm. When they lean too deep into irony, MGMT lose what made them irresistible in the first place.
The Verdict: There are some sweet moments on Little Dark Age and some stale ones. More often than not, Andrew VanWyngarden and Ben Goldwasser lapse back into a sardonic mode that sounded a whole lot better in 2007 than it does in 2018.
Essential Tracks: “Me and Michael”, “James”, and “One Thing Left to Try”