Music Reviews
MGMT

MGMT

Loss of Life

Mom + Pop Music

I remember buying MGMT’s debut album Oracular Spectacular after hearing lead singles “Time to Pretend,” “Electric Feel,” and “Kids” seemingly everywhere in the fall of 2007, winter of 2008. I, like the rest of the world at the time, was enamored with my iPod and iTunes. I haven’t listened to the album I spent actual dollars on in probably over a decade, my 120gb-custom engraved-iPod stowed away in some drawer of tech that I oddly keep, though never use. MGMT didn’t completely fade in the interim between then and now. There’s the amazingly successful title track from 2018’s Little Dark Age that found some sort of zeitgeist during the beginning of the pandemic, and the title track from 2010’s Congratulations. Technology changes, listening habits and preferences change, and so has MGMT.

Though lead singles “Mother Nature,” “Bubble Gum Dog,” and “Nothing to Declare” from MGMT’s newest full release Loss of Life don’t seem to be as ubiquitous as those three singles from Oracular Spectacular, they should be. Andrew VanWyngarden and Ben Goldwasser have crafted a deeply insightful album that I interpret as a reflection of getting everything that “Time to Pretend” yearned for. Nothing is as rose-tinted as was hoped. There are songs of lost loves, the reality of overindulgence of substances, loneliness. Musically, it’s much more subdued, in an acoustic-psychedelic way that reminds me of the three center tracks from Pink Floyd’s Atom Heart Mother: “If,” “Fat Old Sun,” and “Summer of ‘68.” Serious, a bit melancholic, but with a peaceful, sunlight-dappled sheen. This isn’t to say that MGMT’s more standard use of synthesizers is missing, but they are used to enhance the acoustic guitar-driven compositions. It’s quite pretty!

MGMT
by Jonah Freeman
MGMT

VanWyngarden and Goldwasser have not lost their sense for pop. Throughout Loss of Life, that part of their writing tool-kit is on full display. Even with the oftentimes difficult subject matter, songs float and rise above the mire. “Dancing in Babylon” is a standout track, and I am actually surprised that it wasn’t released as a single earlier in the promotion cycle than February 20, 2024, just a mere three days before the full album drops! Guest vocals from Héloïse Adélaïde Letissier (Christine and the Queens) as a duet is an overt exclamation of new love. Celebrated and sparkly-eyed. “Mother Nature” may remain my favorite track from Loss of Life, because I have spent more time with it. There is a beauty in the composition and the vocal arrangement that keeps me coming back (it’s also lyrically positive. Again, about love and how one’s soul can be buoyed by emotion).

On the back half of the 10-track album is a pairing of songs that really, really gets into the marrow of what MGMT are exploring musically and lyrically on Loss of Life: “Nothing to Declare” and “Nothing Changes.” The former, equating the challenges of international travel to changes in relationships. The latter, a rumination of philosophically epic proportions of one’s existential crisis, French horns providing the solo and accoutrement of the outro. It’s a thrilling journey. Truly, “This is what the gods must have been talking about, when they told me nothing changes.” Loss and love and addiction and growth, all the while feeling out of place. A very human sentiment. “This is what the birds must have been squawking about, right before the dream was ending. Maybe you would’ve heard if you would have stopped fucking around, when it was time to stop pretending” brings “Nothing Changes” full circle to addressing “Time to Pretend.” Directly.

MGMT had this to say about Loss of Life:

All joking aside (never!), we are very proud of this album and the fact that it was a relatively painless birth after a lengthy gestation period, and are happy to be releasing this baby into the world with Mom+Pop. Musically speaking, we are running at around 20% adult contemporary and no more than this, please.

I think they are being modest, too modest about the album. At this time in my own life, I identify and relate to Loss of Life far more than I do “Kids.” Every subsequent listen brings nuances that I missed and a gossamer throughline that keeps the whole endeavor in the forefront of my mind.

Loss of Life releases February 23, 2024, so you can decide for yourself, but I implore you to spend time with the album — I get the sense that MGMT intend for it to be consumed as an album, not just singles — it will surprise you with its humanity and maturity.

MGMT


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