The success of MGMT, which consists of Ben Goldwasser and Andrew VanWyngarden, is arguably the result of the strength of three singles from their 2007 debut, Oracular Spectacular.
In 2009, electronica duo Justice won a Grammy for their remix of MGMT’s second single “Electric Feel.” MGMT garnered two nominations of their own at this year’s Grammys, including one for the dance-friendly “Kids.” Those songs, along with the ironic anthem “Time to Pretend,” defined their signature sound.
On Congratulations, their sophomore effort, they purposely avoided writing songs that sounded like those singles. Instead, the album sounds more like psychedelic indie rock than the electronica-heavy Oracular Spectacular that launched their career.
Congratulations has been touted by the band as a reaction to the fame that followed the success of their debut. The album’s title track is reminiscent of the tongue-in-cheek writing on “Time to Pretend.” VanWyngarden dreamily sings about the people who “book my stays and draw my blinds, so I can’t see what’s really there,” then stick around to congratulate him afterwards. Towards the end of the song, the music fades and the song concludes with a round of applause.
“Flash Delirium,” the only song to be formally released by the band before the entire album was leaked online, offers a more disillusioned take on their fame. On it, VanWyngarden laments, “And now it hurts to stay at home … you can’t get a grip if there’s nothing to hold.”
The second-to-last track on the album is an instrumental piece replete with a wailing voice and howling wind sounds. The title is “Lady Dada’s Nightmare.” Interpret that however you see fit.
“Siberian Breaks” has to be the most interesting of the nine tracks. It is a 12-minute series of musical vignettes strewn together into one song (Ã la “Bohemian Rhapsody”). The song does in one track what the album does from start to finish &- fluctuate from upbeat to mellow, retro-sounding to modern-day, and each vignette wraps up on either an instrumental note or a gradual fade to silence, as do most of the album’s tracks.
Diehard fans will like Congratulations because it is not that much different from some of the songs on Oracular Spectacular. But be warned &- if your only prior exposure to this duo was from the signature sound they created for themselves with their trifecta of singles, you might not understand this album.
Trial Track: None. Listen to the whole album. That’s what they want you to do.