Brooklyn duo MGMT showed up too late in the electro revival to be considered artistically important. But their debut album, Oracular Spectacular, and its trifecta of hit singles were as perfect as pop music got in 2008. Nevertheless, the group was unhappy with their perceived insignificance and returned in 2010 with Congratulations, either an ill-conceived attempt at credibility or a grand prank on MGMT's pop fans. Neither explanation made the record successful, resulting in one song worthy of their debut, the gorgeous title track. The rest of the album was bloated prog rock, and profoundly boring.
MGMT splits the difference between their first two albums by combining the song craft of Oracular and the experimental instrumentation of Congratulations, along with its song-cycle feel. This album is a sleeper; it lures you in gently and ends up being a place worth staying. "Alien Days" begins at a leisurely pace, dynamically building intensity until its winding, whimsical melody sticks. "Cool Song No. 2" follows in the same formula, as does the slightly menacing "Mystery Disease."
The laid-back moodiness ends with the single "Your Life Is a Lie," which is innocuous and vapid on its own, but in the context of the album, its short electro punk blast is climactic and exhilarating. Then the cycle restarts. "Astro-Mancy" and "I Love You Too, Death" are unsettling paranoia drones, while the glam slam "Plenty of Girls in the Sea" repeats the trick of "Your Life Is a Lie." While MGMT isn't a masterpiece, it is a triumph, and after Congratulations, that's more than enough.