Congratulations

Pitchfork on MGMT's new joint:


If you're coming to the second MGMT album because you loved "Time to Pretend", "Kids", and "Electric Feel", there's the door. No such moments exist on Congratulations. Hell, there aren't even failed attempts at replicating those songs here. This time out, MGMT aren't crafting pop; they're Creating Art. The problem is that many of the half-million or so people who bought their debut, Oracular Spectacular, just want a couple catchy-as-fuck, ear-candy singles to blast in their cars or put on with their friends...

Now they've returned with an album full of that stuff, and the result is audacious, ambitious, and a little fried. Working with Spacemen 3's Sonic Boom, MGMT have crafted a grandiose but not always clear-eyed record. Instead of the commercial climbers they're lumped alongside (the Killers, Kings of Leon, Muse), MGMT follow the lead of the Flaming Lips and Beck and prove to be kindred spirits with Of Montreal, Yeasayer, and Klaxons. They're in love with 1970s art-rock, and they've immersed themselves in uncool subgenres like pop-psych and prog. And despite the lack of marquee songs, they've made, top to bottom, a more interesting and even better record this time out...

If their success granted them the opportunity to do whatever they wanted, MGMT took advantage of it, layering songs with a surplus of ideas when a few good ones would have done. Every track here has successful passages, but frustratingly, they too often turn out to be detours or trap doors. In general, the less cluttered and more focused their tracks are, the better they turn out. The most satisfying songs are the ballads-- the title track in particular, but also "I Found a Whistle"-- or the ones like "It's Working" and "Someone's Missing" that walk a fairly linear path. The most arduous is the 12-minute "Siberian Breaks", which has some intriguing elements but little discernible reason to be so densely constructed.

The Flaming Lips comparison is interesting. I kind of feel bad for liking "Time to Pretend," "Kids" and "Electric Feel." Those are my favorite tracks (along with "The Youth") off the last album. I don't hate pop. I don't know what that says about me and my tastes. For my money, the album feels really unfocused. I'll write more as I listen more.
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Ta-Nehisi Coates is a national correspondent at The Atlantic, where he writes about culture, politics, and social issues. He is the author of the memoir The Beautiful Struggle.

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