The sophomore effort Congratulations was released by electro-pop duo MGMT (a.k.a. Ben Goldwasser ’05 and Andrew VanWyngarden ’05) this month and covered by media across the United States and abroad.
Goldwasser and VanWyngarden first wrote and played their music as students at Wesleyan and found success after graduation that many musicians would die for. They were signed to the major label Columbia, and their full-length debut album, Oracular Spectacular, went gold on the Billboard charts with more than three million songs downloads globally. They had a hit single, “Time to Pretend” that won adoring fans who started to dress like the duo onstage.
MGMT also received two Grammy nominations for Best New Artist and Best Pop Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocals. MGMT recently talked to Melena Ryzik The New York Times about the aftermath of their success and their new album, which is a departure from their previous work. Rysik wrote that Congratulations is “nine tracks of sprawling psychedelia and little feel-good dance pop. The synths are there but layered beneath other instrumentation. It’s not singles driven; the trippy-folkie centerfold song lasts 12 minutes. … it didn’t sound anything like anyone expected, and Mr. VanWyngarden and Mr. Goldwasser knew it.”
Congratulations challenges its listeners “to take it as a whole and spend some time with it,” the way a lot of people used to listen to albums before the IPod era. Though some in the media have been surprised by the direction MGMT has taken, for the two musicians, the new recording is “the kind of album they wanted to make all along.”
Goldwasser admits they didn’t want to duplicate the mood of their first album. According to The Times, he said, “If that is seen as your greatest achievement, then where do you go from there? What do we do next? Keep getting drunk and writing party songs? We could do that, plenty of people have done that throughout their musical careers, but it kind of makes us sad to think about it.” VanWyngarden added, “I don’t know if our new album is necessarily good or not, but I know that it’s very honest, and I think that’s really important.”