Review: Congratulations (MGMT)

Oh, go ahead and get your “Where’s my ‘Kids’?” out of the way; I know it doesn’t sound like Oracular Spectacular. There’s no big, poppy single, blah, blah, blah. I’ve even heard a “there’s no heart in this one.” Optimistically, my ears are deceiving me on one level or another.

Congratulations, the second effort from psychotic, psychedelic alterna-pop team MGMT is far more a Wish You Were Here than a Time to Pretend Part Three.

The first and most obvious observation would be the existence of an intimidating set of layers that the group has structured around their “poppy-at-heart” melodies. Unofficial first single, “Flash Delirium,” is an alluring melody “garment,” painstakingly formed from absolutely magical melody bits.. But is shockingly difficult on the first listen.

Granted, there are some less perplexing tunes; “Brian Eno,” and title-track “Congratulations,” but the more rewarding tracks are buried under even more strategic orchestral layers and cryptic arrangement combinations. “Siberian Breaks,” a twelve-minute medley of dreamy synth and fascinating vocal harmonies, is a mind-boggling masterpiece yielding little-to-no poppy instantaneousness. Yet, it is easily one of MGMT’s greatest accomplishments, and is the crown jewel of the record.

Rationally, the scale does boomerang back into the other side of the equation with a handful of (much) shorter, more radio-friendly tracks. “It’s Working” is a brief blast of surfy jams and shimmering, dynamic harmonies; and “Song for Dan Treacy” follows it cleverly with a contagious rhythm and fittingly sticky melodic phrases. It’s a balancing act that would make even Lady “DaDa” dizzy.

But the thrill of the musical cruising and the rush of the stimulating rusing really are the driving forces behind Congratulations. As with any other great piece of music and visual art— the more you examine it, the greater it becomes.

88%/B   ☆


The First Transmission

It is with overwhelming joy and satisfaction that I bring you my new music criticism blog, the Headphone Transmissions. Since I explore most of my musical avenues under the pavilion of my Sennheiser’s, I felt it only natural to name the blog in honor of their sonic provision.

Let me first begin with a brief summary of how I plan to go about critiquing and grading the musical recordings. For future reference, this scale is subject to change..

For the most part, I will be utilizing the standard 0-100, A-F, “schooling”-type system. For example, if I were to award a record with a perfect score, the grade would look like- 100%/A. Easy, right?

Now we’ve got “special symbols”:

♕ = King of the Crop, so to speak. Reserved for those “once-in-a-lifetime”-type albums (98%+).
☆ = Star, or Standout. You see this, you make sure you own this album, because it’s one of the best of the year (80%+).
♭ = Flat. Likely, a record with substantial hype that just doesn’t live up to the expectation. Or just a disappointing record from a typically great artist.
☂ = Umbrella. Yeah, just stay away from these records. They don’t do you no good (55%-)

So there you have it. I’ll be posting my first review shortly. Thanks for the support.