Showing posts with label mgmt. Show all posts
Showing posts with label mgmt. Show all posts

Tuesday, January 1, 2019

the top 50 best songs of 2018

The tagline that I've always had with this list is that it's the hardest to make, but let me qualify it: it's the one that easily requires the most work. And considering this is the year where I reviewed more albums than ever before, you'd think for the sheer volume of material this would be excruciating to assemble...

But in truth, this top 50 list actually fell out pretty quickly, at least with respect to the volume of music I've consumed. It still takes a lot of refinement to go through the best songs of any given year, but the truth about 2018 was that for as many songs as I loved, most of them were concentrated onto specific albums, which might lead to a slightly less diverse list as a whole. And if there was a year where my qualification that I can only put up to three songs from any given album on this list was tested... yeah, it was here. And yet even with that qualification, this list is kind of all over the place - little more hip-hop heavy than previous years and we'll get into why on my final list - and I'll freely admit there isn't quite as much metal or electronic music I'd prefer, but I needed to be honest with this one. Keep in mind songs from albums I covered on the Trailing Edge are eligible, and that if you don't see any songs from an album I loved earlier this year, there's no guarantee it won't show up on a different list - some albums don't put out the best individual songs and vice-versa. 

But no more wasting time, let's get this started!

Thursday, February 15, 2018

video review: 'little dark age' by mgmt

Well this was... genuinely kind of awesome, I'm really happy to actually get on board with MGMT here for a pretty damn fun record! There's flaws, of course, but it's still really damn solid and I'm happy that for once I can join the crowd on this!

Next up... hmm, something from deeper on my backlog or an indie country project, we'll have to see, so stay tuned!

album review: 'little dark age' by mgmt

I remember vividly the last time I covered MGMT.

Now most of you probably don't - that was very early in my critic career on YouTube, before I even had a proper camera, and thus me taking a pretty lukewarm at best stance on a critical darling band got me a small but significant backlash... even if history seems to have proven me right on this. Part of the problem is that I've never really been a huge MGMT fan: there were some great moments on Oracular Spectacular, Congratulations has only warmed on me in recent years and it's probably underrated but I still wouldn't call it great, and in contrast I've only soured on the self-titled record more and more. Part of it was the return of producer Dave Fridmann continuing to embrace his blown-out, more compressed sound that he worked to far greater effect with The Flaming Lips that same year on The Terror, but a larger part of it was the sense that MGMT were falling towards a bait & switch trope in psychedelia I've never really liked. I get the appeal in using that quasi-surreal gloss for something dark and twisted beneath it, but it's like a lot of shock-horror, it doesn't have the same replay value for me, especially when the tunes just didn't coalesce. l said in that review that MGMT were continuing on a path to alienate their audiences, but the truth is that they just weren't playing to their strengths: they had a great knack for hooks and the willingness to embrace weird textures and ideas, and when you compromise the former to indulge more of the latter... well, it doesn't always help you.

And thus I found it really interesting that five years later it seemed like MGMT had pulled a 180, teaming up with Patrick Wimberly of Chairlift and Ariel Pink - another guy who can struggle to hold the right balance between texture and phenomenal hooks - to make more of a synthpop release! And hell, while I like psychedelia, this sounded so much up my alley I really wanted to check it out before now! So, what did MGMT deliver on Little Dark Age?

Monday, September 16, 2013

video review: 'mgmt' by mgmt

Yeah, I suspect that many people will likely take issue with this particular review, but I stand by it. 

Now comes the influx of country reviews - three coming up over the next few days while I work to get through Manic Street Preachers' discography in preparation for that album. Stay tuned!

album review: 'mgmt' by mgmt

You know, psychedelic rock might be one of the most frustrating genres of music I've ever encountered, at least on the level of songwriting.

Keep in mind this is speaking as a fan of psychedelic rock - as anyone who saw my Edward Sharpe & The Magnetic Zeros review can testify, I'm a sucker for 'old hippie rock' and those attempting to emulate it (even if they don't completely manage to recapture it). And bands that dive straight into the weird, acid-tinged swirl of psychedelia often create some indelible imagery and powerful songs to support it. The Flaming Lips are often the band I'll point to who have managed to capture the raw insanity that birthed psychedelic rock in the mainstream today, and one of the reasons that particular band is so damn good is that they managed to capture more than just the flash of acid hallucinations, but the fragments of deeper meaning lurking behind said illusions, which they then fused together into compelling wholes. 

But here's my big issue with the themes and bands often present in this genre: they either go for complete, uncompromising sincerity towards light or darkness (like Edward Sharpe or, if we're going over to the progressive side, acts like The Flower Kings) or they flip the script, using upbeat psychedelia to contrast with twisted, grotesque imagery or incredibly dark lyrics. It's a rictus grin, a painted smile used to conceal the horrors beneath. Instead of the acid high, it's the acid freakout. The really frustrating fact is that the majority of psychedelic rock is lodged within one of these two camps and nowhere else, with the latter growing more and more popular today in this age of increased irony and general cynicism, particularly for the hippie ideal. And as I have mentioned before, I don't respond as well to bands playing that dichotomy, because I feel a certain purity of theme is lost. Yes, psychedelic rock can plunge into darkness (The Flaming Lips proved that this year with The Terror, one of the best albums of the year and one that scares the crap out of me), but when bands seek to play the dichotomy, I can't help but lose a certain deeper connection to the material in a lot of cases, most of the time because too many of the bands seem entirely too self-satisfied with coming up with the idea.

So let's talk about MGMT, a neo-psychedelic indie rock act that amassed a certain amount of critical acclaim by playing that dichotomy very well - and yet one with which I cannot really feel a connection. Now, let me make it clear that I don't think either of their first two albums are bad (Oracular Spectacular is better than Congratulations, though), but I have a hard time truly getting invested in them because the band is very much enamored with the concept of exploring, taking upbeat melodies and delivery and fusing it with some pretty dark lyrics all things considered, with the glaring contrast being one of the grandest selling points of the album. It doesn't help that it's very clear their albums are draped of layers of irony and sarcasm which makes any shred of authenticity very hard to find in the whole experience - which I suspect is part of the point, but it really doesn't resonate with me. 

However, I'm not entirely sure that MGMT plays to their strengths as much as they should. Their first album gained a lot of press and acclaim due to their fusion of psychedelic indie rock with complex and yet catchy rhythms that had a striking amount of populist appeal - so when the band made a left turn into art rock with their second album, they alienated a lot of fans. For me, that wasn't quite the issue, as it basically felt like a less catchy, more backwards-looking version of their first album, returning frequently to the fount of late 60s and early 70s psychedelia and prog rock and not doing a lot beyond that, particularly lyrically. That being said, as a fan of progressive rock, I can say that MGMT's attempts here are well-intentioned, but more than a little overstuffed, and their better tracks are their simpler experiments.

So, with all of that in mind, did MGMT manage to make something that I found compelling on their third swing, with a self-titled album three into their career (something I always take issue with, by the way)?