Coming in at No. 10 is the stunning return to form of American Synth-pop duo Andrew VanWyngarden and Ben Goldwasser, also known as MGMT. Although Little Dark Age went under the radar when it was first released back in February (only reaching No. 27 in the UK charts), its lyrical content is hard to ignore as it reflects the current social and political climate, particularly Donald Trump’s inauguration as US President indirectly.
MGMT have had a few misfires with their previous two albums: Congratulations and self-titled MGMT. With Little Dark Age, it’s a return to the catchy melodic writing and retro-’80s instrumentation – but has dark undertones which makes for a pleasantly eerie and enjoyable listen.
Re-listening to it again, the number of memorable tracks is astounding for a pop album and its balance between sweet lyrics and dark satire creates a natural flow between each track. ‘When you Die’ has a steady funk beat sprinkled with light bouncy synths and sinister acoustic guitars juxtaposed against nasty lyrics such as “We’ll all be laughing with you, when you die,” that are ironic but strike some sincerity as the sound of gunshots can be heard as well. However, the next song ‘Me and Michael’ is a complete contrast that has a nostalgic ’80s sound with a conventional ’80s melodic motif on the sprightly synths, that separates each verse, whilst telling the ambiguous story of a failed relationship, which has a hint of melancholy but also optimism (“solid as they come”). The final track ‘Hand it over’ has a profound sense of honesty as the duo reflect on their relevancy to the current pop climate whilst making sly digs at Trump’s presidency. There are remnants of Chicago’s pop classic ‘If you Leave me Now’ in the instrumentation but with a quiet, sombre approach that creates a meditative tone as the track fades away at the end.
Those are a select highlights of a deeply complex but accessible album, and the fact that it makes the top 10 exemplifies the sustaining power it still has with our writers. Also in a year where pop music seemed to swerve between Latin reggaeton pop, mellow house and forgettable grime, albums like Little Dark Age or Beerbongs & Bentleys proves that pop music will never die out if you have an ear-worm melody that never leaves. Albums further down this list emphasise this point further but for now, a decade after their smash hits ‘Kids’ and ‘Time to Pretend’, MGMT still have a knack to write a collection of memorable pop tunes and I’m excited for what the next chapter is in store for Andrew and Ben.
Little Dark Age was released on 9th February via Columbia Records.