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CD of The Week

Week of 2/26/24

    MGMT - Loss of Life (Mom + Pop)

    MGMT dive headlong into exquisitely produced nostalgic 70's soft rock and melodic neo-psychedelia on their fifth release Loss Of Life. The indie-rock duo consisting of Andrew VanWyngarden and Ben Goldwasser formed in 2002 and have been subverting expectations for close to two decades; this latest album is no exception. While this is a mostly acoustic and electric guitar affair, the keyboards and synths are never far away; safely stored in a room across the hall, perhaps, and Daniel Lopatin (aka Oneohtrix Point Never) provides these slight electronic flourishes. Loss Of Life is mainly produced by MGMT and Patrick Wimberly, but a bevy of other musicians and producers lend their talent throughout; Dave Fridmann (The Flaming Lips) mixed the album, and Nels Cline (Wilco), Danger Mouse, and Sean Lennon provided further musical intoxication. Chris of Christine & The Queens is the most unexpected, yet somehow ideal, sonic partner for "Dancing In Babylon," with its reverse-effect opening leading into an 80's-era duet, like a modern-day Stevie Nicks and Tom Petty ballad, finally landing in some spacey chill-out room.

    While lead single "Mother Nature" is a standout track, it also sets the tone for the rest of the album. It's reminiscent of when The Future Sound Of London abruptly dropped their 90's electro-psych sound for the much more acoustic-psych sound on The Isness (look it up, you won't be sorry). While not as jarring of a move, MGMT fully embrace this new direction. On "Bubblegum Dog," a track originally meant for Little Dark Age, MGMT conjure up some early glam-ghost of David Bowie, while confronting the very real ghosts chasing them into their own middle age. When a primarily synth-pop group adds acoustic guitars, the goal, as MGMT are clearly striving for here, can be to make the songs feel trippy without seeming bloated. French band Air does this to perfection, and on most of this album, and especially "People In The Streets," MGMT draw influence from the entire Air catalog, and not ironically, from their song "People In The City." While the album title suggests otherwise, there is an overall "glass half full" attitude throughout; the opening lyric of "I Wish I Was Joking" suggests that "Half of love is still love."

    On their fifth album, MGMT has grown both forward and backward, leaning on influences both gentle (Simon & Garfunkel) and bizarre (10cc, The Moody Blues), taking their music into uncharted territories. Loss Of Life expands their wholly original oeuvre, but it doesn't overtly determine which section of the record store you'll find them. On the epic, and ironically titled "Nothing Changes," VanWyndgarden is not so subtle about the maturation and progression of he and his band; "This is what the birds must have been squawking about, Right before the dream was ending, And maybe you'd have heard if you'd stopped f***ing around, When it was time to stop pretending." A full circle moment, considering the very first track on their debut album was "Time To Pretend," which is full of lyrics about models, drugs, living fast, and dying young. While not quite a masterpiece, Loss Of Life is a mesmerizing, thoughtful, and sentimental kaleidoscope, leaving us all to wonder where we're headed next.
    Review by Dave Lindquist

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