The psychedelic duo follow artistic whim on their third studio release
Ben Goldwasser and Andrew VanWyngarden’s third studio release, MGMT, is not for the masses (a matter of taste rather than otherworldly brilliance). It may not even be for MGMT fans. Though David Fridmann — who’s also worked with the Flaming Lips, Modest Mouse, and Tame Impala — co-produced this album, as he did MGMT’s decidedly poppier studio debut, Oracular Spectacular, there are no clear pop hits or singles this time through. This is an artists’ composition, a foray into noise and sound to see what exactly can be made of it. The synth-laden album further confirms that the duo’s sophomore release, Congratulations, wasn’t a detour but a signpost — MGMT, out September 17, is the product of the performers’ evolved collective self. Go in without expectation, and the psychedelic tour is welcoming.
Top track “Alien Days” and other electro-infused, seductive lullabies (such as “Mystery Disease”) invite a zorb sesh (whiskey and fire staring would complement the album beautifully). MGMT’s cover of Faine Jade’s 1968 “Introspection” grounds the song list with something at least somewhat familiar, while tracks such as “Cool Song No. 2” feel more paranoid. MGMT works a solid balance, however; Goldwasser and VanWyngarden maintain a record that’s both listenable and challenging. “Your Life Is a Lie,” as one of the more approachable tracks, voices markedly facile lyrics: “Count your friends / On your hands / Then look again. / They’re not your friends. / Hold your breath. / Everyone left. / No surprise. / Living a lie.”
The record should be neither dismissed as pretentious nor coddled as genius that no one understands — at its core, MGMT is true to artist whim more than anything. It comes to us from a cabin in Upstate New York, where Goldwasser and VanWyngarden reportedly improvised and jammed for hours on end, eventually piecing together an album from the best of their sessions. It wasn’t about actively avoiding the Top 40 or trying to hit it — it was about making music that, at that moment, felt right. What’s left now is that fireside whiskey and determining whether it feels right for you too.