It's been weird seeing where MGMT have gone in the last few years. Plenty of people latched on to them for songs like the first half of their much-lauded debut, 2008's Oracular Spectacular, but that album's back half showed that there was a much more challenging band struggling to get out.

They finally broke free on Congratulations three years ago. On a major label, they released a lead single, 'Flash Delirium', that stitched together about a dozen different ideas into a four-minute pop song. People less sure of that album's staying power would have dropped them on the spot. This time around, the pointedly-titled MGMT was trailed by the decidedly more conventional 'Your Life is a Lie', astonishingly simplistic compared to what had gone before: 2 minutes and 6 seconds in length, with no real chorus and a surprisingly linear song structure. It was catchy in a weird sort of way, which when you think about it is what MGMT do best.

The band, fronted by Andrew VanWyngarden and Ben Goldwasser, have always been ambitious, and while there's nothing on their new record that matches 'Siberian Breaks' - the 12-minute epic that was Congratulations's centrepiece for sheer chutzpah - they've been pushing their sound forward in other ways, which is easy to do when there's five people in the studio, with the band line-up completed by members of their touring band: Will Berman, Matt Asti and James Richardson.

'Alien Days' was released for Record Store Day in April, and, placed in a new context as the album opener, kicks things off on a confident note - a breezy, mid-tempo lope that manages to be constantly engaging, its song structure flowing nicely from verse to chorus and back again. Congratulations sometimes suffered from trying to fit too many things into its tracks, but MGMT scales things back for something more direct, meaning that the likes of the percussion-driven 'Cool Song No. 2' and the band's rollicking take on Faine Jade's 'Introspection' are punchier than you may expect.

Punchy, yes, but not outright poppy. While the band's gift for melody remains intact - the driving bassline of 'Astro-Mancy' is up there with the best hooks they've written to date - their newest batch of songs are as multi-layered as they've ever been. There's way too much going on in 'I Love You Too, Death' to take in right away, and the album as a whole will make a lot more sense after four or five listens.

This isn't a record that will produce hit singles (with the possible exception of penultimate track 'Plenty of Girls in the Sea'), but then, MGMT have always been more of an albums band. (There are surely some of you out there that prefer the second half of the debut, right?) Maybe they don't quite think their life is a lie - from the evidence presented on this album, they're living it just how they want to. Not many other bands in their position could get away with an album like this; they've reached the stage where going back to writing straightforward songs would seem like a serious retrograde step. More power to them.