by Tom Arndt
You may remember MGMT’s “Kids,” the psychedelic hit of 2008, or “Congratulations,” its more mellow 2010 counterpart, with its absurdist music video of a sad creature in the desert. To most, they went quiet after the release of their second album, Congratulations. After being involved with a handful of side projects and their third, but more obscure album, Little Dark Age, the band is back!
MGMT has always had a problem with record labels; Ben Goldwasser and Andrew VanWyngarden have always stood by the idea that their music is for fun, and not to make hits or play by corporate rules. So, they’ve started to produce their own music, harkening back to their dorm days and first demos, and released two singles.
“In the Afternoon” was released at the end of 2019, and picks up right where Little Dark Age left off. With heavy, resonant synthesizers, and a grumbling 80’s bass, this track continues the unique feel that MGMT have become known for. Yet, it doesn’t live in the shadow of their prior works, carrying a gothic and whimsical energy unmatched by any contemporary music, with warmer passages developing an optimistic contrast. As a first step into independence, it’s promising.
The band delivered another single last week, “As You Move Through the World,” and as usual, the execution is excellent. At a run time of 7:35, many listeners may be scared off, but MGMT have never been afraid to run a long song. In a style not unlike the compositions done by C418 for Minecraft, there’s lots of resonance, with some notes echoing for well-extended durations. The drums eventually come in, adding structure to the song, followed shortly by the raspy, echoing, vocals, a unique but welcome experiment in style. The song comes in waves, nearly departing into silence at some points, coming back a bit more uptempo, before slowing down and fading out.
MGMT have never been afraid to experiment with new ideas, and the gothic ambience of “As You Move Through the World” pairs great with the rumbling bass of “In the Afternoon.” With two years since the release of their last album, Little Dark Age, and a resurgence of activity, perhaps the band is hinting at a fourth album, independently produced, yet maintaining the quality of music and signature experimental style the band has become known for.