A woman walks into a dark and haunted mansion with a candlestick, and, with a flourish of synth, announces the return of MGMT.
It’s been four years since Andrew VanWyngarden and Ben Goldwasser released MGMT, and the wheels are starting to turn again. “Little Dark Age” — the first single from the band’s forthcoming 2018 album — was released today, the near five-minute track accompanied by a music video directed by Nathaniel Axel and David MacNutt.
For those who still associate the band with the hugeness of Oracular Spectacular-era tracks “Kids” and “Time to Pretend,” “Little Dark Age” will carry a distinct sense of maturity. But buried in those flowing synths is all the weirdness and grandeur of that age.
“I grieve in stereo,” VanWyngarden sings over pulsing electronic bass that wouldn’t feel out of place on M83’s Junk. He appears in the video behind a mic with a mop of black hair and gothic eyeliner that bears a strange resemblance to Sean Young as Rachel in “Blade Runner.”
But where the sonics of Junk were lavish, affectionate explorations of the styles of the ‘80s, MGMT continues its penchant for reinvention — the band’s keyboard-driven soundspace pulls liberally, dipping fingers in everything from disco to prog rock, yet sounds like neither. “Little Dark Age” carries a flavor of the ‘80s, not just in its synths but in VanWyngarden’s hollowly recorded reverb-heavy vocals. But it also reasserts itself in certain moments as a modern track — during the bridge, it slips out of its reverb for a moment, pushing VanWyngarden’s vocals entirely to the front.
The track does well enough on its own to establish its gothic style, with little riffs evoking old-time England. But in typical MGMT style, Axel and MacNutt’s video takes the theme to its extreme with a quirky if-Wes-Anderson-filmed-a-horror-film vibe. Here too is the mixing of past and present, as the video is seemingly filmed on an English manor and set in a previous century and filmed in the ‘70s, and yet, the completely black-shrouded figure sits smoking a vape when not creepily running its hands over Goldwasser’s face and shoulders.
“Little Dark Ages” is a worthy return for MGMT. It’s a fun track, but it also engenders itself to multiple listens — details of production emerge after a few listens that deepen the deceptively spare instrumentation. 2018 will tell us how it fits into the greater scheme of the band’s return.
Check out the video below.