On October 5, 2007, Spin.com named MGMT "Artist of the Day". On November 14, 2007, Rolling Stone pegged MGMT as a top 10 "Artist to Watch" in 2008. The band was named 9th in the BBC's Sound of 2008 top 10 poll. They were also named as Last.fm's most played artist of 2008 in their Best of 2008 lists.
Their first album Oracular Spectacular debuted at number twelve on the UK album chart and number six on the Australian ARIA Charts, and hit number one on the Billboard Top Heatseekers chart. It was named the best album of 2008 by NME. MGMT also appeared prominently in Australia's Triple J Hottest 100 2008, coming in 2nd with "Electric Feel", 5th with "Kids" and 18th with "Time to Pretend."
Goldwasser and VanWyngarden formed the band while attending Wesleyan University during their freshman year. "We weren't trying to start a band," remarked Goldwasser. "We were just hanging out, showing each other music that we liked." They experimented with noise rock and electronica before settling on what David Marchese of Spin calls "their current brand of shape-shifting psychedelic pop." They graduated in 2005 and toured extensively in support of the Time to Pretend EP, opening for indie rock band Of Montreal.
In the autumn of 2006 Maureen Kenny signed the band to Columbia Records. The duo recorded with Flaming Lips music producer Dave Fridmann in 2007 for their major label debut, Oracular Spectacular. MGMT opened for of Montreal on tour in autumn 2007 as a five piece touring band including Matthew Asti (bass), James Richardson (drums), and Hank Sullivant (guitar). In November 2007 they performed for the first time in Europe supporting Asobi Seksu and The Courteeners at Koko in London. After March 2008, the lineup changed with Will Berman on drums.
MGMT performed at both the 2008 SXSW Music Festival and Austin City Limits festivals in Austin, the first day of Bonnaroo 2008, Coachella Music Festival, performed twice at Glastonbury 2008, and also played Roskilde Festival, Reading Festival, partnering Leeds Festival, T in the Park and the Irish Oxegen Festival (where fans and spectators scaled the tent's internal rigging towers causing the gig to be temporarily stopped for 20 minutes).Lollapalooza and the Osheaga (Canada) festival as well as Summersonic (Japan), Oeiras Alive! (Portugal) and Rock Werchter (Belgium) in 2008. August 2008 saw the band play the Hungary Sziget Festival, UK Reading and Leeds Festival, & at Lowlands in Holland, where they played their album integrally live. They also played at the Toronto Virgin Festival in 2008.
The band supported Radiohead on the Manchester date of their world tour and went on a headline tour of the UK during November 2008, playing at venues such as Manchester Academy and Shepherd's Bush Empire.
MGMT opened for M.I.A. on the Vassar College date of her 2008 tour, and also played several shows with Beck while he toured in 2008. They also toured Australia with a headlining spot on the Meredith Music Festival line-up. They played a show at the Virgin Vestival on Toronto Island on September 6, 2008, playing nine songs off their Oracular Spectacular album. They also played the 2008 Street Scene festival in San Diego, California. On February 27, 2009 MGMT performed alongside Spectrum at "The Dome" in Finsbury Park. MGMT has confirmed a new tour date in Australia at the Splendour in the Grass festival. MGMT is somewhat headlining this music festival with other well known bands, Bloc Party, The Flaming Lips, The Happy Mondays and Janes Addiction.
MGMT played their first show of the year on June 9, 2009 in Little Rock, AR. The show included songs by the band Chairlift.
On June 11, 2009, MGMT played at Minglewood Hall in VanWyngarden's hometown of Memphis, TN, where the band played three songs from their forthcoming album, including the title track, "Congratulations." Later in the week, the band played a late-night gig at Bonnaroo, where they were once again joined by members of Chairlift.
MGMT recently settled a legal dispute with the President of France, Nicolas Sarkozy in May 2009. Contrary to popular belief, MGMT did not sue anyone, instead receiving a settlement payment that they plan to donate to a charity to help musicians with similar legal battles. The song "Kids" was used on several occasions without permission (in 2008), at a party conference and in two online videos. The party paid a standard fee of €53 to the French music licensing party, but this license did not cover all uses of the song. The UMP, Sarkozy's political party, admitted that the song had been used without permission and offered a symbolic compensation of €1. The band rejected the offer, claiming it was "insulting". The band's lawyer commented that "we are dealing with acts of counterfeiting, with infringements of intellectual property." Nicolas Sarkozy is known as a vocal supporter of stricter intellectual property laws.
MGMT has been working recently on their new album, "Congratulations," expected to be released in early 2010. The band has been in Malibu recording the album, and have been recording with Pete Kember, ex-Spacemen 3. MGMT debuted three new songs titled "Congratulations," "It's Working," and "Song for Dan Treacy" at recent shows.
They have recently collaborated with up-and-coming alternative rapper Kid Cudi, and will be featured on two tracks from his upcoming album, as well as one track on The Flaming Lips' new double album, and one track on Jay-Z's The Blueprint 3.
Their song "Time to Pretend" is in the soundtrack for 21, can be heard in the background in the movie How to Lose Friends & Alienate People, was heard in the movie Sex Drive, can be heard at the end of the series 2 finale of Skins, and in the Shaun White Snowboarding video game.
Their Song "Electric Feel" is in the BMX video "Odyssey Electronical".
The TV series Gossip Girl has used "Time to Pretend", "Kids", and "Electric Feel" in various episodes.
Their song "Kids" is on the FIFA 2009 Soundtrack, the Taylor Steele surf film Stranger Than Fiction (2008), in the Travis Rice snowboard film That's It, That's All (2008), and can be heard in the mountain bike film The Uprising (2008).
"Time to Pretend" is used in the movie Warrior starring Ashley Greene and Kellan Lutz.
On August 5th and 6th MGMT was the opening band for Paul McCartney for his new tour at Fenway Park in Boston, Massachusetts.