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MGMT Drops “Loss of Life,” First Album Since 2018

It’s been an interesting career for the electronic duo MGMT. They’ve architected two genuinely dominant hits, with the era-defining Kids and the sleeper TikTok sensation Little Dark Age. The unexpected success of the latter added a ton of anticipation to an agonizing long gap between projects for long-term devotees, a project teased and delayed in several on-and-off cycles. Towards the end of last year, tangible moves like single releases and a brief press run hinted that the MGMT hiatus would be coming to a close, and now with Loss of Life, it finally has.

True To Its Title, Loss of Life Finds MGMT Jaded

Speaking in broad strokes, the biggest things that Little Dark Age era fans will notice are a change in effects and a change in tone. To the former—some of the big breakout singles from that 2018 project featured heavily processed vocals, drowning in a sea of reverb and modulation that obscured lyrics that were already quite opaque. Take the title track, its social media inescapable chorus of “I breathe in stereo, the stereo sounds strange” made all the more incomprehensible and intriguingly mysterious by chains upon chains of processing. On Loss of Life, Andrew VanWyngarden’s performances often lay bare, devoid of those distortions.

While it may seem like an “in the weeds” observation, that shift makes the material featured here much more emotional and cutting. It largely doesn’t come alongside any lyrical clarity, either, for what that’s worth. Take “I Wish I Was Joking,” where, in quick succession, VanWyndgarden delivers the lines “You kiss the sky below the bed” and “nobody calls me ‘the gangster of love.'” On this rumination about getting older and the mundane aspects of everyday life, there’s still plenty of room for idiosyncratic turns of phrases, but added into the mix are pretty plain observations. Again, on the hook: “A six dollar coffee / and municipal parking / and Disney on Ice / I wish I was joking.”

A promotional photo of electronic duo MGMT, hot off the heels of their latest album, 'Loss of Life.' Taken from @MGMT on Instagram.
Taken from @MGMT on Instagram.

A Bittersweet Throughline on the Band’s Fifth Album

If looked at from a birds-eye view, the overwhelming tone of Loss of Life is bleak, not entirely a surprise given the morose title. “Nothing to Declare” spends its time discussing a folktale kind of romance where his partner dutifully awaits (and never gets) details about some sort of quest for truth in the world. “Nothing Ever Changes” holds onto that classic storytelling imagery, alluding to Sisyphus and Mount Olympus while hauntingly promising its title to the audience. Continuing to jump around the tracklist, “People in the Streets” maintains that somber tonality from its start: “Life keeps going / Showing you things that you can’t unsee / In the sense of unknowing why.”

Call it maturing, call it growing old, but those looking for a “She Works Out Too Much” in the tracklist will be left searching by the end of the project. That quippy sense of humor that starred on LDA in heavy doses stays in traces, but the MGMT style of reflecting on current events goes in a profoundly darker and deeper direction. What hasn’t changed is the masterful production, which continues to shine through in the mix and keeps this from being such a downer of a listen. If there’s an emotional silver lining on the project, it’s on “Dancing in Babylon” featuring a stellar performance by Christine and the Queens, and the closing title track:

“When thе world is born and life is ending
Then you lеarn to love your loss of life
When the morning comes and life is over
Anyone can love, anyone can love”

Even Changing Shape, MGMT Shines on Loss of Life

While the origin story behind this project remains obscured for the moment, it’s clear that the passing of time weighed heavy on both of the principals in its making. Maybe those life events made it so that duplicating a Little Dark Age simply wasn’t feasible, or maybe the 1980s pastiche they tackled there is better deployed here in a wildly different fashion. There may not be a TikTok hit, it may not be as easily digestible, but with Loss of Life, MGMT has succeeded once again. It may just be a more bittersweet realization by the project’s conclusion than elsewhere in their catalog.

You can find Loss of Life and all previous MGMT work wherever you stream your music.

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