Little Dark Age

MGMT

After two albums of willfully experimental psychedelic pop, MGMT return to writing the type of hooks they proved so skilled at on their debut, 2007’s Oracular Spectacular.

Musically, Little Dark Age draws a lot on 1980s synth-based commercial pop, such as Hall & Oates, Madonna and Eurythmics, with lots of slightly cheesy backing vocals. But there’s more going on than those period references: MGMT’s Andrew VanWyngarden and Ben Goldwasser again worked with Dave Fridmann, the frequent Flaming Lips producer, so these songs are dense with sonic details that are fun to parse.

It’s a jokey, satiric album, with songs about being tethered to social media (She Works Out Too Much) and devices (TSLAMP, which stands for “time spent looking at my phone”) in addition to ones about politics (Hand It Over) and friendships (Me and Michael).

But in scoffing and cursing at the modern world’s superficialities, they tend to undermine the depth of the songs themselves.

— Steve Klinge

Philadelphia Inquirer

Sunburn

Laura Lippman

Laura Lippman’s versatility as a writer ascends to a new level with Sunburn, which ignites as a classic hard-boiled mystery and contemporary domestic thriller.

Sunburn works as an homage to Raymond Chandler, James M. Cain and Anne Tyler. Lippman delivers a story that’s as cynical as it is hopeful, a look at hearts of darkness coupled with a domestic thriller. The 1995 setting also adds to the intense character studies, with no cellphones or social media to cloud each persona.

Characters are seeking their identities yet submerging themselves with layers of duplicity. In the hard-boiled vein, Lippman puts a modern spin on the femme fatale — the linchpin of novels such as Double Indemnity — then turns it upside down.

At the center of Sunburn is Polly Costello, who walks away from her husband, Greg, and their 3-year-old daughter, Jani, during a beach vacation. She’s been making these plans for a while, knowing that Greg would leave her soon, without support for Jani.

Polly doesn’t get far — the small Delaware town of Belleville, where she gets a job at a diner. It’s what she needs — no stress, no one to take care of, just enjoying “steeping herself in silence” when she’s not at work. She doesn’t want a man, nor need one.

Then Adam Bosk walks into the diner and the attraction is instantaneous. It suits her that Adam is only passing through; his job as a cook is temporary, though he does know more than just flipping burgers.

Their secrets are doled out in small revelations: Murder, insurance, investigators, hidden loves. Lippman shows the complex Polly’s vulnerability, strength, compassion and heartlessness. Even when she resorts to the worst behavior, the reader is still on her side.

The ingenious plot evolves into myriad twists that are as believable as they are surprising.

Lippman will appear from 7 to 8:30 p.m. Wednesday at the Cuyahoga County Public Library’s Parma branch, 6996 Powers Blvd. Call 440-885-5362 to see if seats remain.

— Oline H. Cogdill

Associated Press