On their fourteenth album Oczy Mlody, the Flaming Lips ask you to redefine the concept of a “song.” If you think a song needs to have a musical or lyrical beginning, a middle, and an end, then this won’t be the album for you. Like much of one of their previous albums, Embryonic, the Flaming Lips weave together different phrases and pieces of music together in a way that feels incomplete and yet purposeful. Oczy Mlody is akin to a psychedelic trance, a myriad combination of synths and vocals that match together in a whole that’s borderline ethereal at certain points. It is exceedingly easy to lose yourself in this album. When listening, I’d look up to find that thirty minutes and seven tracks had passed, as I lost myself in the lazy vocals and languid synths. Oczy Mlody is a carefully crafted piece of psychedelia, each piece carefully fitted together in a seemingly effortless manner.
The main hallmarks of this album are an expert interplay with synthesizers and vocals. The Flaming Lips get great milage out of the synthesizers, exploring underused settings and pushing the synthesizers to unexplored depths. One song will start off with a traditional piano style synthesizer noise and then ten seconds later, the synths have been manipulated to something dark and inhuman. Likewise, the Lips are not afraid to use WEIRD samples. “Listening to the Frogs with Demon Eyes” starts off with frog calls and other sounds of nature, over a drum machine and synth background. The tracks build up the synths and the vocals over and over on top of each other. What starts off as a simple phrase gets built up and repeated and teased out into something that sounds like a new phrase entirely. Songs like “How??” show the Flaming Lips’ expert show an expert use of vocal manipulation. “How??” is a slowly moving ballad about the inability to express oneself, as singer Wayne Coyne laments “I tried to tell you, but I don’t know how” over and over again over languid and dreamy synths. Throughout the album, vocals are tweaked, made higher, made lower, expanded, compressed, echoed, slowed down—if there is something that can be done to the voice, there’s a good chance it exists in Oczy Mlody.
Oczy Mlody expertly plays with dynamics and volume, in songs like “Nigdy Nie (Never No)” and “Almost Home (Blisko Domu).” Again, the Flaming Lips continue to play with your idea of what a song is. The melody will build up into a crescendo, a loud amalgamation of various pieces…and then the song drops the melody right before where it would logically climax, as it turns into something completely different, an entirely new set of lyrics and melodies that the Lips continue for another minute and a half.
Like the rest of their discography, the Flaming Lips are not afraid to get surreal on Oczy Mlody. “There Should Be Unicorns” describes a wish list for a party, as Coyne languidly lists items for this party, including day-glo strippers, the burning sun, and the unicorns with purple eyes (not green ones). “There Should Be Unicorns” is one of two tracks featuring guest singers: Reggie Watts provides a spoken word outro, as he delivers a possibly improvised, possibly written monologue about the party. The second song featuring a guest singer is the final track, “We a Family.” Probably the most traditional song on the album, “We a Family” is a sweet call and response featuring frequent collaborator Miley Cyrus. This is the song The sweetness in her voice adds an additional layer to the song, a perfect final track to the album. “We a Family” is a celebration of togetherness, as the two singers describe how they were reunited after a long time. The phrase “we a family” is repeated over and over again, a celebration of togetherness and unity, a perfect finale to a surprisingly unified album.