Album Review: MGMT – Little Dark Age

By Maria Lubanovic, Copy Editor
[Columbia; 2018]
Rating: 8.5/10

Key Tracks: “Me and Michael”, “James”, “Hand It Over”

Little Dark Age is MGMT’s fourth full-length album – their first in over five years. Full of the blips and vocals that made them popular in the first place, Little Dark Age delivers track after track of unique electronic sounds. It’s a welcome change from their last two albums, which were too heavy-handed and lacked the style that listeners were searching for.

The album opens with “She Works Out Too Much”, an 80s-style track that opens with the line “Get ready to have some fun” and a countdown. Synth fizzes over a driving bass riff, with some of the effects sounding straight from a Dance Dance Revolution game. It’s a track that focuses on the problems with online dating and phone addiction, which becomes a running theme throughout the record.

“Little Dark Age” immediately locks into a funky synth driven groove. Electronic pings slide under the vocals, and the lyrics are tinged with gothic motifs. That said, the instrumentals are upbeat and almost danceable. A basic lick opens up “When You Die” into a sharp synth and dissonant guitar riff, with a chorus of “Go fuck yourself / You heard me right”. This track’s shiny feel and upbeat instrumentals almost disguise the lyrics, which scream and punch with precision. Even the sections of laugh tracks are perfectly integrated as the synth waves over top.

If the 80s influence isn’t obvious by this point, “Me and Michael” clears that up really fast. The track blends modern and old tastes with a synth riff before subduing into a lower rhythmic synth beat, with a millennial whoop soaring over the top. It closes with an amazing synth solo, perfectly rounding out the 80s feel.

An acronym for “Time Spent Looking At My Phone”, “TSLAMP” brings back the theme of living too much of life online and wasting time because of phone addiction. Underneath is a poppy electronic beat, paired with a complex guitar solo and a warped instrumental ending. The theme is a bit on the nose, but it doesn’t really detract from the rest of the album.

Sliding into a darker and deeper tone, “James” provides a melody-driven track with glimmers of electronic notes. It’s one of the more unique tracks on the album as it puts a real emphasis on the vocals. “Days That Got Away” is almost fully instrumental, sliding between electronic vibes and plucky bass. It calls back to some of the musical themes that they have used in their earlier albums. “When You’re Small” opens with soulful vocals about how being smaller gives you a shorter distance to fall. Strings and descending piano shimmer underneath.

The album closes with the softer “Hand It Over”. Between the harmonies and the slow groove, it exudes warmth through the vocals. The lyrics themselves are about the loss of control over their music and how they have to take back their sound and what it means to them.

Overall, Little Dark Age is a massive comeback from their last two albums. It’s consistent, pulls from other styles without being too overwhelming and delivers the sort of feeling that MGMT should have been producing all along.

Listen here:

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