MGMT’s “Little Dark Age” Review

Album art for MGMTs Little Dark Age

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Album art for MGMT’s “Little Dark Age”

Michael Quinn, Writer

I had long thought that an age where MGMT could make consistent music had long since ended after the release of their debut album Oracular Spectacular, which just recently turned 10 years old. The group has carried around their signature synth pop style throughout the entirety of their discography and has been admittedly lacking in some of their most recent work by comparison.

However, when MGMT released a single, the now title track of the album, back in mid October, it peaked my interest far more than any of their other work had in quite some time. The song ‘Little Dark Age’ took a much more distinctive tone from their usually fun and poppy synths, and while the song was still riddled with synths, it was eerier and had a very 80’s-esque sound to it. Even with the release of this single, I was still not totally looking forward to the release of the album that was sure to follow.

It is safe to say my judgement was ill made. This is easily the best album that MGMT has produced to date, which might surprise many MGMT fans given just how different it is from any of the their previous work. Little Dark Age seems like an attempt MGMT made to change up their sound and improve their production quality, which they managed to pull off with a resounding success.

Right off the bat, Little Dark Age begins with the songs “She Works Out Too Much” and the title track “Little Dark Age.” Admittedly, “She Works Out Too Much” was not a personal favorite, but was not offensively bad by any means. While the track had its fair share of nice sounding synth parts (not surprising), the track feels a bit saturated with these arcade-sounding keyboard parts that become tiresome after the first chorus. However, the title track more than makes up for the issues with the former song with its rhythmic and vibrant keyboards and bass, gripping the listener with vibrating and choppy vocals.

The album is filled with very glitzy spectacles, the two standing out most for me personally being “Me and Michael” and “One Thing Left to Try.” “Me and Michael” plays like an 80’s love song sonically, with the airy instrumentals and lyrics depicting a very close relationship between either one of the members of MGMT with an unspecified Michael. “One Thing Left to Try” is an exuberant and energetic piece with faster-than-normal percussions and quick and glittering keyboard leads. This energy is seen in my personal favorite song on the album, “When You Die,” a fun and pumpy song that adds a light, dancy mood to the eerily sounding beginning.

“When You’re Small” has some of the least compelling lyrics on the whole project, but the vocals more than make up for the rather basic message it presents. It might bore listeners at the beginning, but towards the back half of this song is when its colors truly fly, the instrumentals building into an exciting and captivating chorus. “Hand It Over” is a slower and softer tone than most of the others of the listing, it’s choral arrangement reminiscent of songs from bands like the Killers.

Overall, this album has several strengths that are seen frequently throughout the work. The bass on this song is nearly impeccable in all the tracks where it is towards the front of the sound, particularly on the title track and “TSLAMP”. The synth work in all the tracks is on the same level of the bass, if not better. The production quality is stellar, close in quality to other synth based groups like Tame Impala. All in all, good album, give it a listen.