Critical Voices: MGMT, MGMT

September 19, 2013

MGMT’s self-titled LP is a beautiful labyrinth that can only be appreciated once you break free of its constricting walls. Though weirder than ever, the electro-soaked, psych-rock sound, first shared with the world on MGMT’s breakout success Oracular Spectacular, has become more refined and distinctive in their third full-length recording.

A child’s voice gives life to the first words of the album atop long, shimmering, synthesized notes. The innocence of this voice in “Alien Days” immediately establishes the mood of the song, further supported by a perky drum line and cheerful strumming guitar layered on 30 seconds later. Andrew VanWyngarden’s soothing voice takes over and tells a surprisingly relatable story about losing his mind to alien control before the song drifts away into a fuzzy coda.

MGMT continues to play with emotion in “Mystery Disease,” a melancholic ballad. The distant vocals and dissonant synth chords combine to create an eerie atmosphere that keeps the listener on edge.

An agitated drumbeat carries out this spooky misery and ushers in “Introspection,” a cover of Faine Jade’s 1968 psych-rock jam. In this cover, MGMT’s cheerful synthesized woodwinds and reverberating vocals change the tone and create a jovial, dreamlike kaleidoscope of sound.

While the well-developed moods on the album illustrate the band’s exceptional songwriting ability, they can also limit the scope of the tracks. “Cool Song No. 2,” for example, is reigned in by its somber temperament to a deep register, leaving the listener longing for a treble note in every chord.

In a nod to their few vinyl loving fans, MGMT’s record ‘flips’ after the rapid-fire wake up song, “Your Life is a Lie.” On this ‘B-side,’ MGMT embraces the poetic style characteristic of their second LP, Congratulations. “I Love You Too, Death,” showcases this style, using Pink Floyd-esque bells and whistles to build up a musical backdrop to a free form hopeless love poem.

Though perhaps the weirdest and least approachable major label release of the year, MGMT is a lovable and positive development in the bands genre-defining, psych-rock sound. This carefully constructed musical maze dictates the listener’s mood at every turn, telling heartfelt stories through words, music, and emotion.

Voice’s Choices: “Alien Days,” “Your Life is a Lie”

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