Category Archives: MGMT

Albums of 2010: 5 – 1

1. Body Talk – Robyn

“I’ve got some news for you/Fembots have feelings too.” So opens Robyn’s third album of 2010, a compilation of 10 of the best tracks from the two Body Talk mini-albums, alongside five new songs. The lyric sums up Robyn perfectly: a mainstream pop star with attitude, unafraid to promote her sexuality on her own terms.

While guitar bands are praised for daring to use synths in their music, Robyn trades rhymes with Snoop Dogg on the frantic U Should Know Better, makes bass-heavy doom-pop with Röyksopp in None of Dem and, with Dancing On My Own, creates one of the best pop singles of the last 20 years.

But Body Talk isn’t just sleek, forward-thinking electro-pop. It’s also imbued with emotion and soul. Musically, the pace rarely slackens, whereas lyrically Body Talk conerns relationship breakups and/or defiance in the face of heartache. These are songs to dance to with tears streaming down your cheeks. It’s not, however, an album mired by a sense of victimhood, with Robyn both perpetrator and casualty; the Max Martin-produced Time Machine is a lengthy apology to a jilted ex, Love Kills a lengthy warning.

There’s an economy on Body Talk that makes the emotional punch all the more powerful. Dancing On My Own doesn’t waste a second, its metronomic beat the epitome of minimalism, while Hang With Me aims to capture the essence of a relationship in a single line: “I know what’s on your mind, there will be time for that too, if you hang with me.”

Rather than spending ages in the studio, Robyn recorded Body Talk in short bursts, sending tracks to her label as and when they were finished. Commercially, it’s an experimental approach that has yet to fully pay off – only Body Talk Part 2 charted in the UK top 40 – but creatively it’s a testament to the fact that pop music still has the ability to surprise. As Robyn says: “The whole industry knows not to fuck with me.”

Originally appeared in The Guardian’s round-up of 2010’s best albums

Best Track: ‘Dancing On My Own’

2. Teen Dream – Beach House

Whilst the whole dream-pop/chillwave/slo-mo-sepia-tinged genre found itself a whole heap of new stars, the mum and dad of the genre quietly released their third album. From its very first notes – the laconic guitar figure that heralds Zebra – Teen Dream is an album that immediately creates its own mood, pulling you in and keeping you close for its forty-eight minute duration. Whilst their first two albums used a similar template – mid-paced, dreamy, built around Victoria Legrand’s swoonsome vocals – Teen Dream sees them utilise melody much more successfully. Songs no longer meander pleasantly, but strive for a destination. For all its refinement, it’s not quite the dinner party soundtrack some would have you believe. ‘Norway’ features an oddly wonky synth line that would have Rory checking his Bose soundsytem wasn’t broken, the mix is strangely top-heavy and the whole thing is suffused with a weary, almost unbearable heaviness. From the fog it’s Legrand’s voice that pierces through, usually sounding fit to burst whilst Alex Scally creates musical backdrops built around guitar, drums and a pandora’s box of keyboard sounds. An album to enjoy all year round.

Best track: ‘Zebra’

3. The ArchAndroid (Suites II and III) – Janelle Monáe

Janelle Monáe is not like other pop stars. The ArchAndroid, her debut album, is an 18-track, 70-minute conceptual opus, split into two suites, each one separated by ludicrously extravagant Overtures. To say it’s ambitious feels like damning with faint praise; its sheer musical scope – from the James Brown funk of Tightrope to the English pastoral folk of Oh, Maker – is spellbinding. So, the excellent Cold War is new wave with lashings of sci-fi, Locked Inside takes in Off the Wall-era Michael Jackson, while Come Alive (War of the Roses) finds the 24-year-old screaming herself hoarse over squealing guitars. Influences are treated as stepping stones rather than laboured over, with only Make the Bus (a collaboration with Of Montreal) shifting the focus away from the star. The album ends with the eight-minute, string-drenched BaBopBye Ya, a song that teeters on the brink of ridiculousness yet, as with the album as a whole, somehow reins itself in with great aplomb. Behold, pop music has found its latest superstar.

Review originally appeared in The Guardian’s Film & Music section

Best track: ‘Tightrope’

4. I Speak Because I Can – Laura Marling

Much had been made about how Laura Marling’s second album showed her vast maturity and whilst it’s true that it’s short on LOLZ or any songs featuring an unnecessary verse from Pitbull, all this inference about songs centred around knitting and incontinence put us off somewhat. I Speak Because I Can is, however, an album of great vitality, each song harnessing a strange sense of restrained urgency (if such a thing can even exist and it probably can’t). Songs like ‘Rambling Man’ and ‘Alpha Shallows’ sound like they’re aching to breach the restraints Marling places upon them but sound better for the fact that they can’t. Lyrically, it’s an album that reveals itself more and more with each listen, Marling telling stories from the perspective of various character and yet somehow inhabiting them all. At the core of it all is her voice, poised but with a hint of weariness on ‘Goodbye England (Covered In Snow)’ or swollen with spite as on ‘Hope In The Air’. It closes with the title track, a one-tack recording that hinges on the lyric “never rode my bike down to the sea / never quite figured out what I had believed”. It’s sung in such a way that you believe that the non-riding of a bike actually encapsulates a myriad of repressed feelings, of missed opportunities of not taking risks and it’s this ability to turn the mundane into something more that makes Marling so special.

Best track: ‘Rambling Man’

5. Congratulations – MGMT

Congratulations, the follow-up to the hugely successful Oracular Spectacular, was, in many ways hampered by the band themselves. Not in terms of the music – which wasn’t anywhere close to the commercial suicide that many had hyped it be – but in terms of all the guff that went along with it. The band decided against releasing any singles, immediately recalling Radiohead’s similar stance with 2000’s Kid A album. Whilst the Oxford comedians suggested it was because there simply weren’t any singles on the album, VanWyngarden and Goldwasser just seemed to not want to play the game. There was a lot of po-faced boo-hooing about never wanting to be successful in the first place and that they’d all rather work in a sewer or in Toys R Us, and yet all this can’t take away from the record itself. Produced by Sonic Boom, Congratulations is a brilliantly odd collection of songs that meander joyfully, taking in odd homages to Brian Eno and the Television Personalities’ Dan Treacy along the way. There’s much to enjoy not least because no matter how hard they try they can’t help but make hummable melodies. ‘It’s Working’, ‘Flash Delirium’ and ‘Brian Eno’ all rattle along in a psychedelic daze whilst the lilting ‘Someone’s Missing’ and the closing ‘Congratulations’ are suffused with a kind of sweetly melancholic inertia. The centrepiece is the 12 minute long ‘Siberian Breaks’, which is a wonderfully pretentious as the title suggests. Bloody-minded but often brilliant, Congratulations was the ‘difficult second album’ it was more than OK to love.

Best track: ‘It’s Working’

MGMT have been working

We can’t be the only ones who think MGMT‘s Congratulations album is, frankly, five times better than their debut (an album with three good tracks and a lot of filler)? Anyway, let’s not argue, but rather, enjoy this new video for ‘It’s Working’, which we believe is a SINGLE! Having claimed not to have any to release, they’ve clearly changed their mind. It’s very good…

WE CAN’T GET IT TO WORK! So, click here or see above (sorry)

Clever, funny AND with two rather attractive young ladies in it (plus, one of MGMT is hot, right?), there’s something for everyone. The best bit? When one of them picks up a bolt and throws it because it’s the wrong one! Ha! Amazing.

New Musick Monday

Last week we strongly advised you to bypass purchasing the new Scouting For Girls album in favour of donating money to any given charity. Whilst we collate the information to find out just how much you raised, it gives us great pleasure to announce that the ‘band’ failed in their attempt to score a second number 1, their flaccid excuse for an album flopping listlessly at number 2. MGMT entered at number 4, but we predict a pretty spectacular fall once the people who haven’t read the reviews start telling all their mates there’s no ‘Kids’ on it. In the singles chart, Kelis scored her ninth top 10 single as ‘Acapella’ strutted in at number 5. But enough of the past, let’s step into the future (or the present)…

BUY THIS AND NEVER FROWN AGAIN

Expressions by Music Go Music

This trio from LA make sun-kissed, ’70s FM radio style music that would make ABBA think twice about releasing something so immediate. Much of Expressions is like being transported back to a time that probably didn’t even exist, but has been created by a nostalgia machine on a full spin cycle. There’s plenty to love though, from the ADHD of opener ‘I Walk Alone’ to the long lost ABBA single that is ‘Light Of Love’, to ‘Warm In The Shadows’ ten minutes of sheer disco joy. Chances are you won’t want to listen to it very often – it could have the reverse effect and cause some kind of gun-toting rampage – but as a blast of cheesy but brilliantly crafted pop, it’s of an (ABBA) Gold standard.

BUY THIS FOR US

Swim by Caribou

Everyone’s been going on about this guy and this album and we were going to buy it, we really were, but things happened and it slipped our minds. We could lie and ramble on about how we’ve heard it and it’s wonderful (not that we’ve EVER lied before you understand), but that seems a bit mean, so instead, we’ll just point you in its direction and let you make up your own minds.

DOWNLOAD THIS

‘I Feel Better’ by Hot Chip

What’s a band got to do? You make a killer video, get an alt-folk legend to do a remix and still Radio 1 refuse to playlist the catchiest song form your album. Hot Chip have twittered (tweeted? Twot?) that their new release has rather died on its arse following Radio 1’s refusal to playlist it and have, quite rightly, pointed out that 6Music is needed more than ever if new acts (or just any acts that aren’t 3OH!3 or Diana Vickers) are going to succeed. So, after out heroics last week, let’s see if we can get Hot Chip the top 10 single they deserve. Let’s start a Facebook campaign! ARE YOU WITH US? Oh, no? OK…

New Musick Monday

Here at Musick Towers our internet connection appears to currently be powered by two mice, running furiously on tiny wheels, so this edition of the award-winning New Musick Monday may be cut short at any moment. With that in mind, let’s cut the crap and get right to the good stuff; Rufus Wainwright was last week’s real winner, entering at number 21, whilst She & Him and Darwin Deez both bowed at number 62, the former on the album chart and the latter in the singles version. So, who’s stepping up to the plate this week?

BUY THIS

Congratulations by MGMT 

This is fast becoming one of the most over-analysed albums in recent years, with every critic worth his salt mewing about the fact that the band have ditched their sound in favour of eighteen minute long impressionist soundscapes. In reality, Congratulations is a brilliant mix of English psych rock and a very peculiar sense of humour, one that finds them crafting a song about how Brian Eno is responsible for just about every sound we hear. Sure there’s a twelve minute long song that sounds like a brief run through of popular music and a fairly odious instrumental called Lady Dada’s Nightmare, but it’s on the quieter moments that you realise how well-crafted it all is. I Found A Whistle and Someone’s Missing in particular are both quietly devastating, whilst the closing title track tells you all you need to know about why they’ve ‘ditched’ the sound of old.

DON’T BUY THIS

Everybody Wants To Be On TV by Scouting For Girls

Seriously, if you’ve got a spare tenner and you’re thinking of buying this album, then don’t. Instead, why not donate the money to any of the causes below, thus helping your fellow man and giving you the warm glow inside that only comes from hindering a band as loathsomely inept as Scouting For Girls (what is that name about!? Isn’t that the name that three serial killers would come up with if they wanted to form a band in order to lure people to a den and murder them?). Anyway, here are the links:
Amnesty
NSPCC
NSPCA
Cancer Research
The Music Therapy Charity (for the future!)

DOWNLOAD THIS

‘Acapella’ by Kelis

Christ knows we’ve gone about this a lot already, but it’s out to buy on iTunes now so we thought we’d mention it again. It’s always nice to have pop stars like Kelis around and she’s been off the radar for too long, so rejoice with us that she’s back, making slightly off-kilter dance tunes like this one. One, two, three, “Huzzah!”.

MGMT RTRN

Those madcap drug hoovers, MGMT, are back with a new album entitled Congratulations and to celebrate the band are releasing no singles whatsoever. Oh. But what they have done instead is give away a new song, ‘Flash Delirium’, free on their website.

All you need to do is click here and then click on the weird picture and Bob’s your mother’s brother.

‘Flash Delirium’ is, as you might expect if you’ve read any of the build-up stuff surrounding this album, not exactly radio friendly, but it does have a certain charm. It also has a nice flute solo, a bit that sounds rather pleasant and a loud bit at the end. Classic journalism.

Opposite of bad

A few months ago we were reading about Chiddy Bang and their (excellent, it turns out) mixtape, The Swelly Express. Names were flying about like Passion Pit and Sufjan Stevens and MGMT in relation to samples that they’d used and we thought to ourselves, “this rap combo sound really rather interesting, we must remember to do something about them on the blog”. You know what? We forgot. So, once again it looks like we’re blindly following the leaders now that they’re signed to a major and getting airplay on Radio 1, etc. We were there at the start and now look at us. We look like chumps.

Either way, this is their new single, entitled ‘Opposite of Adults’. It’s built around the riff from MGMT’s ‘Kids’ (hence the title) and is, in the parlance of the youth, a gold-plated banger.

OK, so it’s not exactly an assault on your brain cells, but it’s massive, dumb fun from start to finish. The single also features two tracks not on the mixtape, the brooding ‘Chiddy Freestyle’ and the funky ‘Sooner Or Later’. We suggest you download it when it’s released on the 22nd February.

For now though, you can download the mixtape from here and their myspace is here

Prog-Hop

Who remembers the good old days when you could buy a commercial hip-hop album and be safe in the knowledge that all you’d hear is some mindless rhymes about money, bitches and bling with a chorus sampled from a recent hit single, usually sung by a young female singer? Now it’s all MGMT this and Ratatat that (hey, that rhymes!), with all these experimental production flourishes getting in the way of all the pimpin’ and braggin’.

One recent exponent of this phenomena is Kid Cudi. Fresh from working with Italian dance producers The Crookers on ‘Day ‘N Nite’, he’s back with a new single called ‘Pursuit of Happiness’. Produced by Ratatat and featuring MGMT on the chorus, it’s a brilliantly stoned, skillfully executed fusion of rap and OTT guitars.

It’s got a similarly spaced out beat, this time provided by Kanye West and No I.D. Perhaps it’s the start of a whole new genre; Prog-Hop anyone?

Running up that hill

It’s the gift that keeps on giving.

Jay-Z’s forthcoming new album, The Blueprint III, surely has no more secrets to reveal come release time? So far, we’ve had the one that mentioned Noel Gallagher, the one about Obama, that other one with Santigold on it and finally the one dissing Autotune. Well, none of these are the official first single, that comes in the shape of ‘Run This Town’, which features Rihanna on the chorus and Kanye West rapping sans Autotune.

It’s alright. The beat has that marching-band motif that ‘Jesus Walks’ has, and hearing a guitar over the top is a nice surprise, but Jay-Z sounds a bit bored and Kanye West says the following; “she got an ass that will swallow up a g-string, and up top two bee stings”. Rihanna is the real star of the show, delivering the chorus in that kind of dead-eyed way she’s perfected.

There are more surprises on the album of course – MGMT also make an appearance!

Kids say the funniest things

CALL THE DAILY MAIL! This video for ‘Kids’ by MGMT (the single was released here in January and they’ve only just made an official video) is properly terrifying. Well, the monsters look ridiculous of course, but there’s a little baby involved and he looks genuinely upset! Surely there are laws against this kind of thing? Poor little bastard, he’s going to grow up thinking all Police men have skin falling off their faces or that all car journeys involve being harassed by the junkie Muppets. The bit in the cot at the beginning is particularly upsetting and we hereby condemn MGMT and boo them for putting all our kids lives in danger with this FILTH.

Anyway, we’re probably being over-sensitive, watch it for yourselves:

The other big news is that this video stars none other than Joanna Newsom. That Paris Hilton-aping mum from Hell is actually the genuine JOANNA NEWSOM, the harp-wielding goddess whose last album, Ys, was named after a mythical city that was swallowed by the ocean. That’s some transformation.