Reviews of Attainable Hi-Fi & Home-Theater Equipment

Reviews of Attainable Hi-Fi & Home-Theater Equipment

  • SoundStage! InSight - Audio Research Reference 160M Amplifier (February 2019)
  • SoundStage! Shorts - Livio Cucuzza on Audio Research's Industrial Design (November 2018)
  • SoundStage! InSight - Audio Research Past, Present, and Future (October 2018)
  • SoundStage! Shorts - KEF's New R Series for 2018 (September 2018)
  • SoundStage! InSight - Simaudio Moon 390 Digital/Analog Preamplifier and Streamer (September 2018)
  • SoundStage! Shorts - EISA 2018-2019 Awards Introduction (August 2018)
  • SoundStage! InSight - Simaudio's $118,888 Moon 888 Mono Amplifiers (June 2018)
  • SoundStage! Shorts - Totem's Tribe Tower (May 2018)
  • SoundStage! InSight - Amphion's Three Newest Argon Loudspeakers (April 2018)
  • SoundStage! Shorts - Making the Hegel Mohican CD Player (March 2018)
  • SoundStage! InSight - Estelon Lynx Wireless Intelligent Loudspeaker (March 2018)
  • SoundStage! InSight - McIntosh's Five New Solid-State Integrated Amplifiers (January 2018)
  • SoundStage! Shorts - Amphion's Krypton Loudspeaker (January 2018)
  • SoundStage! InSight - Anthem STR Preamplifier and Power Amplifier (December 2017)
  • SoundStage! Shorts - McIntosh Laboratory MA252 Integrated Amplifier (November 2017)
  • SoundStage! InSight - Hegel H90 and H190 Integrated Amplifiers (October 2017)
  • SoundStage! Shorts - How Hegel's SoundEngine Works (October 2017)
  • SoundStage! InSight  - Estelon History and YB and Extreme Loudspeakers (September 2017)
  • SoundStage! Shorts - What Makes Hegel Different? (August 2017)
  • SoundStage! Shorts - Estelon Extreme Legacy Edition Loudspeaker (July 2017)
  • SoundStage! InSight - Amphion Overview and Technologies (July 2017)
  • SoundStage! Insight - Totem Acoustic Signature One Loudspeaker (June 2017)
  • SoundStage! Encore - The Cowboy Junkies'
  • SoundStage! Shorts -- Anthem's STR Integrated Amplifier (May 2017)
  • SoundStage! Shorts -- Paradigm's Perforated Phase Alignment (PPA) Lenses (March 2017)
  • SoundStage! InSight -- Paradigm's Persona 9H Loudspeaker (March 2017)
  • SoundStage! InSight -- Contrasts: Dynaudio's Contour and Focus XD Speaker Lines (February 2017)
  • SoundStage! Shorts - New Technologies in MartinLogan's Masterpiece Series
  • SoundStage! Shorts - Dynaudio/Volkswagen Car Audio (December 2016)
  • SoundStage! InSight - Gryphon Philosophy and the Kodo and Mojo S Speakers (January 2017)
  • SoundStage! Shorts -- What's a Tonmeister? (November 2016)
  • SoundStage! InSight - AxiomAir N3 Wireless Speaker System (December 2016)
  • SoundStage! InSight - Bang & Olufsen BeoLab 90 (November 2016)
  • SoundStage! Shorts - Gryphon Diablo 120 Integrated Amplifier (October 2016)
  • SoundStage! InSight - Dynaudio History and Driver Technology (October 2016)
  • SoundStage! Shorts - The Story How Gryphon Began (September 2016)
  • SoundStage! InSight - Devialet History, ADH Technology, and Expert 1000 Pro (September 2016)
  • SoundStage! Shorts - Devialet's Phantom Loudspeakers (August 2016)
  • SoundStage! InSight - McIntosh Home Theater and Streaming Audio (July 2016)
  • SoundStage! Shorts - McIntosh MC275 Stereo Amplifier (June 2016)

Columbia 88985476052
Format: CD

Musical Performance

Sound Quality

Overall Enjoyment

Ben Goldwasser and Andrew VanWyngarden formed a band in 2002, while attending Wesleyan University, in Connecticut. They called it the Management, but because another group was already using that name, they changed it to MGMT. Both men are multi-instrumentalists, but they’ve used additional musicians in the studio and on tour since their second album, Congratulations (2010).

Dave Fridmann, known for his work with Flaming Lips, Mercury Rev, and many others, helped MGMT produce their first album, Oracular Spectacular (2008), and their fourth, MGMT (2013). Neither sounded like Flaming Lips, but they did show a tendency toward that band’s likable eccentricity and sonic strangeness. For their fifth album, Little Dark Age, MGMT and Fridmann are joined by coproducer Patrick Wimberly.

Little Dark Age

Wimberly has produced best-selling recordings by Beyoncé and Solange, and Little Dark Age feels a bit like an attempt to broaden MGMT’s appeal. It’s sunnier sounding than MGMT, but disquiet lurks beneath its gleaming surfaces. “She Works Out Too Much” is full of exuberant synths and has an irresistible melody, but its words tell a different story: “I’m constantly swiping and tapping / It’s never relaxing / I need a new routine.” Toward the end, its infectious groove is aided by a synth horn line that reveals a smile through the gloom.

The bouncy synths and drum machines in the chorus of the title track pulled me back to the 1980s and such bands as the Human League, but the accompaniment in the verses is dark and ominous, which serves to highlight the vivid, sometimes frightening lyrics. “The Ruins of the day / painted with a scar,” VanWyngarden sings -- his words are often full of such stark imagery.

“Hand It Over” could be about MGMT’s experiences in the music business, but such lines as “What’s yours is mine / Mm make it right / and give me what’s mine” could as easily have come from the mouths of the disenfranchised in America’s Rust Belt. It’s a gorgeous, richly layered ballad, the sort of thing John Lennon might have done had he lived long enough to experiment with synths. Most of the tracks on Little Dark Age show inspiration from musicians old and new -- Tame Impala here, a bit of Erasure there, splashes of Todd Rundgren throughout, Giorgio Moroder everywhere.

Little Dark Age

Despite all these influences, MGMT carves out its own identity on Little Dark Age. This thoughtful and challenging album looks at the impact of technology on modern life, but two of its most affecting songs, “Me and Michael” and “James,” are about friendship. While Congratulations and MGMT were perhaps less approachable but more distinctive, the tunefulness of Little Dark Age masks a complexity that reveals itself over repeated hearings.

The sonic playfulness aside, the Flaming Lips oddly don’t stand out as an influence, but Fridmann’s touch is audible in this album’s complex layers of sound, which invite you to keep coming back to unwrap its many gifts. The deep, rich soundstages of the recording spread out and register. Little Dark Age may be a bid for a bigger audience for MGMT, but either way, it’s well crafted, musically and lyrically witty, and highly enjoyable.

. . . Joseph Taylor