Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars
The beginning of MGMT’s third self-titled studio album starts particularly…strange. Andrew Vanwyngarden’s voice is either replaced or modified by or into what sounds like the voice of a young child. It soon transforms into normal pitch, percussion kicks in, heavy and forceful, followed by soft acoustic guitar strumming and that catchy melody that is ‘Alien Days’. MGMT have returned. And it has been quite the anticipation for anyone who is a fan of this band and genuinely appreciated their sophomore album, ‘Congratulations’, which can be argued as an introduction to what has been unveiled as their “true” sound now running psychologically and above all, musically unrestrained in this new volume of songs.
Many things are heard in this album, from Eastern scales to classic synthesizers to cerebral lyrics. Upon listening to it, one might observe that this band once popular for radio-savvy tunes is making some truly artistic music and on a major label recording company. Surprising, to say the least, considering the ever digressing priorities for major labels. Much more to the point, it’s great to see a blown up band pursuing artistic concepts that most all bands would never do, simply for the sake of keeping their devoted fans. MGMT will always be respected for the devotion not to their fans, but to themselves.
‘Cool Song No. 2 contains the eastern scales mentioned earlier. The melody is quite pretty and is executed with a certain raw quality, making it the album’s juggernaut, second to ‘Alien Days’. The keyboard is brilliantly used in and around the song, as well as the rest of the album, and we hear Ben Goldwasser extending his reach in musical depth, composing some of his best work to date, particularly during the first half of the album.
‘Introspection’ is in itself, introspective, a new quality that hasn’t really been heard by these guys, besides the final track of their second album. ‘A Good Sadness’ also features a certain sound that was foreshadowed in what you hear on the last two minutes of ‘Siberian Breaks’. It’s a very cool sound and it compliments what could be the songs’ notion that the only good sadness is one completely drowned out by technology. ‘Your Life is a Lie’ is an absolute riot, and the most fun you’ll have listening to ‘MGMT’. ‘Plenty of Girls in the Sea’ is the only track that really feels out of place, and although it’s a fun song, it throws the listener off, and because it’s so near the end of the album, the conclusion, ‘An Orphan of Fortune’, the album feels almost as though it ends too abruptly. It’s subtle how the choice in track progression has the ability to affect an entire album.
There are two noticeable differences throughout ‘MGMT’ in contrast to ‘Oracular Spectacular’ and ‘Congratulations’. First, is Vanwyngarden’s lyrics and delivery. Imagine him offering you a red pill or a blue pill before your personal introduction to the band’s music. If you have listened to the first two albums and are now tuning in to this one, consider yourself to have taken the red pill, because he is now showing you how deep the rabbit hole goes. The writing is even more thought-provoking and creative, and if there had to be only one thing to improve upon, it would be the over all construction of the poems. The second noticeable difference is the band’s growth in progressions and subtle textures that truly compliment the ideas being evoked, especially ‘I Love You Too, Death’, one of the albums finest and most quiet moments.
Every song on the record has something unique to offer. Whether it’s the melodies, sounds or lyrics, there is something to appreciate. Unfortunately few songs have all three qualities crafted together to make the album itself as a whole, memorable. There’s plenty of good in this album, it just feels slightly unfulfilled. Still, it’s a highly enjoyable document of a band who blew up suddenly and chose to be themselves afterward.
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