With Time to Pretend and Kids, US duo MGMT were responsible for two of the defining songs of 2008. Subsequent releases, however, were exercises in self-sabotage: 2010’s Congratulations and its self-titled follow-up (2013) were wilfully uncommercial albums seemingly designed to alienate their fanbase. But, as hinted at by the release of its majestic and disquieting title track last autumn, Little Dark Age finds MGMT finally rediscovering their mojo. Irresistible pop hooks abound, from the effervescent keyboard froth of opener She Works Out Too Much (payoff line: “The only reason it never worked out was he didn’t work out enough”) to the unashamedly anthemic One Thing Left to Try. But beneath the surface glitz there’s a palpable sense of unease to the lyrics: witness the regret of TSLAMP (an abbreviation for “time spent looking at my phone”). When You Die, meanwhile, a cowrite with Ariel Pink, finds Andrew VanWyngarden singing, over a none-more-1980s oriental motif, “Go fuck yourself… don’t call me nice again”. The mood switches for the final two songs as VanWyngarden and bandmate Ben Goldwasser opt for a more introspective feel, Hand it Over echoing the dreaminess of Air’s Playground Love.
Phil Mongredien works on the Guardian's opinion desk. He also reviews albums for Q magazine