Author: Richie DeMaria
I’m a sucker for melody. I like my fair share of atonal ambient drones or wacky experimentalism as much as the next guy, but in the end, I keep coming back to a well-crafted pop hook. Which is why I’m drawn to MGMT’s Oracular Spectacular and Cut Copy’s In Ghost Colours. The former a hit-and-miss collection of psyched-out indie pop rock, the latter an immaculate album of retro electro-pop, both offer up some of the catchiest songs of the year.
MGMT’s Oracular Spectacular, a kaleidoscopic and synth-laden affair, brings to mind the psychedelic bombast of The Flaming Lips or the electronic whimsy of recent Of Montreal. The band succeeds with its singles, but falters in other places. The album begins with a bang. Opener “Time to Pretend” bursts on the scene with a timeless melody, carried with massive drums, fizzing synths and wry lyrics on rock ‘n’ roll stardom. The Brooklyn duo has generated quite a bit of buzz as of late, and with this song, it’s easy so see why: on “Time To Pretend,” they sound downright invincible. Lest they seem like one hit wonders, the band delivers again on “Electric Feel,” a colorful funk number, and on “Kids,” a joyful dance tune for the recess set. Though much slower, “The Youth” is still charming and pretty, adrift in a dreamy haze.
Unfortunately, the rest of the album doesn’t hit quite the same highs, bogged down by syrupy production and grating vocal takes. “Weekend Wars” brings the band’s biggest shortcoming-namely their nasally vocals-to the forefront. “Of Moons, Birds & Monsters,” though catchy, just sounds kind of bloated, drooping with David Fridmann’s thick production, while “The Handshake” drowns in its own weirdness.
Nonetheless, it’s a likable and at times lovable effort all around, and the group gets points for originality. Here’s hoping they can deliver on the promise of “Time to Pretend” and “Kids” and offer up something even better next time.
In Ghost Colours, on the other hand, is a much more consistent album, solid from beginning to end. Simultaneously forward thinking and retroactive, Cut Copy’s intensely melodic electro-pop recalls as much 1960s sunshine pop and 1980s glam as it evokes images of today’s dance floors.
The album begins with “Feel the Love,” a warm and summery song that’s impossible not to love. From there, the band moves straight to the dance floor and never looks back. “Out There On The Ice” and “Far Away” channel ’80s new wave over a thumping beat, while “Hearts On Fire” is fit for a deep space dance party. What’s more, in songs like “Midnight Runner” and “So Haunted,” there’s a sense of emotional depth, a kind of longing beneath the glossy surface that makes the album all the more rewarding. And there are, of course, the melodies. You’d be hard pressed to find another 2008 album as infectious as In Ghost Colours.
If Oracular Spectacular shines in its individual songs, then In Ghost Colours succeeds as a unified statement best considered as a whole-a seamless and enjoyable party from start to finish. In addition, In Ghost Colours is remarkably efficient; the songs are lean and precise, compared with MGMT’s excess of sound. It’s this consistency and efficiency that makes In Ghost Colours such an accomplishment, and a contender for album of the year thus far.
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