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MGMT’s Evolution

One Year Into MGMT’s Little Dark Age

November 6, 2018

Neo-psychedelia duo MGMT is well known for their three radio hits, Kids, Electric Feel, and Time To Pretend. This collection of singles, however, is not an accurate representation of their abilities as artists, their imagery encrypted lyrics, or their desire to break away from their past persona displayed in other records.

MGMT formed in 2002 when Andrew VanWyngarden and Ben Goldwasser met at Wesleyan University during their freshman year. They quickly bonded over their love for bands like Spiritualized and Chrome, and it is evident these musicians have had great influence on the duo’s musical journey.

It was during these college years that the three radio hits were created. MGMT wrote these songs as a joke, a sort of commentary on what pop music was at the time. The music caught the attention of Columbia Records, and MGMT signed with them in 2007. Their studio debut album Oracular Spectacular, featuring the three hits, was released in 2008. Suddenly their joke about selling out had become a reality.

Oracular Spectacular was extremely successful, with Grammy nominees and selling over 2,000,000 copies. However, MGMT wanted to embrace their experimental music style and distance themselves from the antics of the pop duo they were once deemed to be.

Their next two albums, Congratulations (2010) and MGMT (2013), were written during a challenging time for the band. MGMT was struggling to find a balance between the conventional pop music everyone expected from them, and the psychedelic sound they were trying to expand on. Fans were confused, and not connecting to the music in these two albums the same way they did with Oracular Spectacular. The duo decided to take a break to reconsider their next steps after the release of the self-titled album.

In an interview with Rolling Stone Magazine in 2010, Vanwyngarden said: “People have this attitude that something’s either pop or its pretentious art, or it’s mainstream or it’s indie, there’s no middle ground, and I think we’re trying to go somewhere in between that.” With MGMT’s most recent release, Little Dark Age, they have finally been able to incorporate their strengths from each genre they’ve experimented with. They’ve improved the psychedelic sounds and they brought back some of the pop they have been praised for in the past. Collaborating with Ariel Pink also added to the dark synth-pop feeling of the record, with Vanwyngarden’s disembodied voice and unsettling lyrics. After a decade of experimentation, Little Dark Age is a blend of all the music they have released so far. They’ve finally found the middle ground.

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