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Band Review: MGMT’s Indie innovation

MGMT strengthens musical innovation with exotic sound

MGMT’s most successful album was released in 2007: Oracular Spectacular. It featured hit singles like “Kids” and “Electric Feel”, ultimately selling over 600,000 copies in the U.S. alone. The band even managed to land the CD on Rolling Stone’s “500 Greatest Albums of All Time” list just last year. While their ironically titled album Congratulations fell substantially shorter, reporting only a third of its predecessor, it also invited an interesting twist to the band’s established image as an electro-pop group. Instead, it focused on the instrumental and composition aspects, with the overall feel being not electric, but progressive rock.

So, it is to be expected that MGMT (formerly ‘The Management’) would surprise listeners again. The opening track of their newest album titled MGMT, “Alien Days”, has an oddly folksy appeal, with electronic melody and correspondingly rhythmic vocals that set the stage for new music. Though the tracks vary substantially, each still contains a cosmic and appealingly unnatural sound. The experience of their new self-entitled album is its own journey, refraining to succumb to the “pop fever” which has consumed recent artists, such as Coldplay (not that anyone’s pointing fingers).

Granted, you could call the overall sound trippy, transcendental, or weird, but the fact remains that the album is leading and strengthening musical innovation. Their music is in the foreground of a unique sound that is incomparable to the vast majority of artists outside of the indie circuit, where MGMT has hovered before with classic hits like “Time to Pretend”. The beats, highs, lows, pitch, bass – they’re not for the isolationists, but for those who embrace change and want to eradicate musical barriers, appreciating the juxtaposition of a dark message with an upbeat tempo.

MGMT knows where they stand with their listeners, and that is part of what makes them so alluring.

I think MGMT knows where they stand with their listeners, and that is part of what makes them so alluring. They are frequently changing their position, while relying on a core principle of making music that is not only unusual, but also exotic. The rejection of the mainstream isn’t a pillar of their lyrical faith to entice new followers; it’s part of their identity. These beliefs are reflected in their most recent album. They manifest themselves with realism that is filtered through songs like “Your Life is A Lie”, which exclaims definitively, “Count your friends on your hands. Now look again: they’re not your friends.” That’s the power of the album’s title. It epitomizes their ingenuity as a band of artists doing as they should – making art.

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