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The product of Ben Goldwasser and Andrew Van Wyngarden's ever-changing vision, MGMT is a pop band prone to deep dives of psychedelia and art rock experimentation. The band first formed in 2002 when the two friends were freshman-year art students at Wesleyan University in Middletown, Connecticut and grew from a performance-based project to the deeply refined, neon-glowing synth pop of their 2007 debut LP Oracular Spectacular. That album came out on a major label, was nominated for Grammys, and included more than one hit that would come to define a particular era of hipster ennui. In the face of this breakthrough success, MGMT immediately shifted gears to embrace their weirder side on subsequent albums, working with Spacemen 3 alum Sonic Boom on their deliriously psychedelic 2010 sophomore effort Congratulations and tying together their inherently hooky songwriting with electronics, intentionally confused arrangements, and experimental production on records like their self-titled 2013 album and 2024's Loss of Life. MGMT was first conceptualized in 2002 by college friends Goldwasser and Van Wyngarden. The band was initially known as the Management, and its shows consisted mostly of backing tapes, synthesizers, and pre-recorded vocals playing as Goldwasser and Van Wyngarden engaged the audience in a manner somewhere between performance art and good old-fashioned punk hostility. By their senior year, they had toned down considerably on-stage, and began augmenting their live sound with backing musicians. After graduating, MGMT released an electro-rock EP, 2005's Time to Pretend, on the tiny indie label Cantora Records. For their full-length debut, the duo partnered with producer Dave Fridmann and recorded Oracular Spectacular, a far more musically expansive album that was released in late 2007. The album immediately enjoyed both critical approval and commercial success, with the album selling over 500,000 copies in the U.S. and going platinum in Australia, the U.K., and Ireland. The album's third single, "Kids," was a hit, eventually being nominated for Best Pop Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocals at the 52 Annual Grammy Awards. In 2009, MGMT began working with producer Sonic Boom, formerly of Spacemen 3 and Spectrum, on their second album, Congratulations. Released in 2010, the record found them growing more ambitious and quirkily psychedelic, with a song dedicated to two of their heroes: Dan Treacy of Television Personalities and Brian Eno. The album debuted at number two on the U.S. Billboard chart and the band toured much of the year, while also appearing on TV and playing many festivals. The following year, the bandmembers dug deep into their record collections to curate an installment of the Late Night Tales mixtape series and began work on their third album with Dave Fridmann. The self-titled effort was something of a return to the expansive sound of their debut, but with the same amount of weirdness that permeated Congratulations. The record received mixed reviews, but still broke the Top 20 of the Billboard album chart. After the band finished touring behind the album, they decided to take a break from making music together. After roughly a year of inaction, Goldwasser and Van Wyngarden began trading song ideas back and forth via computer, then decided to write and work on arrangements together. They brought Fridmann back and added producer Patrick Wimberly of Chairlift to the team. Inspired by pop music of the '80s and heavy on synths, Little Dark Age was MGMT's most accessible since their debut, despite featuring contributions from dedicated weirdos Ariel Pink and Connan Mockasin. Though the record was finished and turned in to their label Columbia in April of 2017, it wasn't released until February of 2018. The album debuted at number 35 on the Billboard 200 and hit number two on the Top Rock Albums chart. Several years after Little Dark Age was released, the title track took on a life of its own, suddenly experiencing a viral boom in streaming numbers. In 2022, the band self-released live album 11•11•11, a document of a 2011 performance at New York's Guggenheim Museum of music the band was commissioned to create to accompany an art installation there. The fifth studio album Loss of Life marked the end of MGMT's long partnership with Columbia, and was released in February of 2024 on indie label Mom + Pop Music. The material on the album was informed by much of the same reference points that had guided MGMT's more adventurous output, with songs sounding like '70s soft rock and FM pop radio beaming in from an alternate galaxy where psychedelic thoughts were the norm. In addition to once again bringing in Wimberly for production and Fridmann for mixing, Loss of Life included guest production from both Danger Mouse and Oneohtrix Point Never's Daniel Lopatin, as well as guest vocals from Christine and the Queens on the track "Dancing in Babylon."
© Stewart Mason & Andrew Leahey /TiVo


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