MGMT, “MGMT” (Columbia)
Something’s always looming and buzzing — or burbling, or clattering, or tapping, or ratcheting, or blipping, or quavering — near the foreground throughout MGMT’s third album. It makes the album both testing and, eventually, rewarding.
Andrew VanWyngarden and Ben Goldwasser, who write and record as MGMT, have embraced excess since their 2007 debut album, “Oracular Spectacular.” On “MGMT,” the duo has large ambitions. They ponder purpose, fate and mortality in songs like “Mystery Disease” and “Your Life Is a Lie.” The album’s keynote is borrowed: “Introspection,” a folk-rock song from a 1968 album by New York songwriter Faine Jade. It vows, “There’s a reason, and I will someday find the plan.” MGMT is less optimistic; its songs see growing malaise and the inevitability of loss and deterioration.
Which explains the sound. There’s still a late-’60s foundation to most songs, but the music has turned less antiquarian. With producer Dave Fridmann, MGMT has piled on layers and loops of percussion, electronics and effects: an almost overwhelming welter of activity, a meticulous clamor that wells up and changes throughout every track. It’s the entropy that, sooner or later, awaits us all.
JON PARELES, New York Times
Avicii, “True” (Island Def Jam)
Avicii may not be electronic dance music’s first crossover artist, but he may be the biggest. Sure, it doesn’t hurt that the 24-year-old Swedish DJ has model looks and a Ralph Lauren contract to boot. However, it’s his ability to bring a variety of styles together on his debut that will likely catapult him ahead of David Guetta and Calvin Harris.
Avicii’s songs sound distinctive. Whether it’s the weird combination of Mumford & Sons-styled folk and dance beats on the first single “Wake Me Up,” or the gorgeous reworking of Antony & The Johnsons’ haunting ballad “Hope There’s Someone” into a rousing dance floor anthem, Avicii approaches the songs on “True” more like a songwriter than a DJ. The beat is only part of the package.
For “Lay Me Down,” Avicii assembles a formidable crew to combine funk with EDM, using a cool Nile Rodgers guitar groove and Adam Lambert’s potent vocals for a dance jam that’s both current and timeless. He uses Dan Tyminski (of “O Brother, Where Art Thou’s” soundtrack) to bring country-tinged drama to “Hey Brother.” Avicii rolls out one surprise after another here — the biggest may be how well he makes EDM work with every genre.
Glenn Gamboa, Newsday