MGMT, “Little Dark Age” (Columbia)
After two albums of willfully experimental psychedelic pop, MGMT return to writing the type of hooks they proved so skilled at on their debut, 2007’s “Oracular Spectacular.” Musically, “Little Dark Age” draws a lot on ’80s synth-based commercial pop, such as Hall & Oates, Madonna and Eurythmics, with lots of slightly cheesy backing vocals. But there’s more going on than those period references: MGMT’s Andrew VanWyngarden and Ben Goldwasser again worked with Dave Fridmann, the frequent Flaming Lips producer, so these songs are dense with sonic details that are fun to parse.
It’s a jokey, satiric album, with songs about being tethered to social media (“She Works Out Too Much”) and devices (“TSLAMP,” which stands for “time spent looking at my phone”) in addition to ones about politics (“Hand It Over”) and friendships (“Me and Michael”). But in scoffing and cursing at the modern world’s superficialities, they tend to undermine the depth of the songs themselves.
STEVE KLINGE, Philadelphia Inquirer
Laurie Anderson, “Landfall” (Nonesuch)
Nearly everyone who lived through superstorm Sandy in 2012 has a story to tell about it. Anderson enlisted the Kronos Quartet and set hers to music.
“Landfall” started as a performance piece, but it holds together as an album as well, though visuals probably enhanced the more expository pieces like “The Electricity Goes Out and We Move to a Hotel.”
The 70-minute piece runs from the start of the storm, which Anderson weathered in Lower Manhattan with her husband, the late Lou Reed, through its aftermath, with the foreboding sounds of helicopters marking the transition.
The centerpiece of “Landfall” is the haunting 10-minute epic “Nothing Left But Their Names,” where Anderson discusses — in a distorted, lower-pitched voice — a variety of now-extinct species, leaving unasked the question of what humans’ impact will be.
But there are lighter moments, finding humor in “We Learn to Speak Yet Another Language,” where she talks of being “in a Dutch karaoke bar trying to sing a song in Korea,” while making the point that the world is now very small.
She nimbly moves from the universal implications to the personal in “Everything Is Floating,” as she talks about going to her flooded basement and finding her keyboards and countless keepsakes ruined. (Her book “All The Things I Lost in the Flood: Essays on Pictures, Language, and Code” was published this month.) “I thought how beautiful, how magical and how catastrophic,” she declares
Recognizing that duality is what makes “Landfall” so special. She finds beauty in even the darkest of disasters, a discovery that can be applied to everyday struggles as well.
GLENN GAMBOA, Newsday
• Caroline Rose, “Loner”
• Janiva Magness, “Love Is an Army”
• Our Lady Peace, “Somethingness”